02 Feb 2017

Ma Long, Xu Xin and Zhang Jike, the selection for China at the Rio 2017 Olympic Games; now will all three be present when the world meets in Tokyo in 2020?

They have a major challenger; the name is that of Fan Zhendong. Furthermore, the Japanese capital city is very much on his radar.

by Henry Chen

Undoubtedly, last October, the 20 year old proved the fact that he can succeed in the big time when he beat colleague Xu Xin in the final of the Liebherr Men’s World Cup.

Moreover, he won in style. He recorded a very impressive five games win to arrest the title (11-5, 11-6, 11-8, 7-11, 12-10).

Additionally, Fan Zhendong made an impact in the Chinese domestic scene. He topped the 2016 Chinese Men’s Super League averages; an overall record of 25 wins and three losses. He was the backbone of the Bayi Team; the outfit crowned champions on Saturday 31st December.

“I think one cannot focus on the result of just one match in the League. It’s a long-term test. The whole team winning in the end was critical. We certainly had a higher goal in 2016”, Fan Zhendong

It was a highly successful year for Fan Zhendong; on the ITTF World Tour he won the Men’s Singles titles in Japan and on home soil in China. Additionally he was a member of the successful Chinese outfit that secured the Men’s gold at the Perfect 2016 World Team Championships in Kuala Lumpur.

However, the one factor missing was the Rio 2016 Olympic Games; he experienced the atmosphere of the Olympic Village but not the thrill of competition.

“I wasn’t able to participate in the Rio Olympic Games; I felt the Olympic atmosphere; it’s much clearer for me what to do in the future”, Fan Zhendong

Winner of the Boys’ Singles title at the Volkswagen 2012 Junior World Championships in Hyderabad when he beat colleague Lin Gaoyuan in the final, the following year he made his ITTF World Tour debut in Qatar.

It was not the most auspicious start; he was beaten in round two in straight games by Portugal’s Marcos Freitas. A lesson was learned, now Fan Zhendong, even though just out of his teenage years, is a most seasoned competitor.

However, he faces one of the toughest challenges in sport; that is not actually winning a medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. It is gaining a place in the Chinese Team to have the chance to win a medal!

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