by Wade Townsend
Ding Ning’s experience in Rio had to be every Olympian’s dream; a gold medal for a souvenir. But it was a long time in the making.
All up, Ding spent almost a month in Brazil preparing for the competition and competing. There was no time to take in the golden sunshine when a gold medal was up for grabs.
But it wasn’t just her preparation that took so long.
The story of her previous Olympic experience is well known. She had lost in the final of London 2012, with Li Xiaoxia triumphing 4-1 on that occasion. Four years is a long time to wait to get have a chance at revenge. But Ding was patient and eventually was back in the final.
Enroute to the gold medal match, Ding, the No.1 seed, dropped just one game. She was looking imperious and and constantly a fan favourite; she is table tennis’ Queen of Hearts.
But on reaching the the final, Ding felt fortunate to have made it that far in the event, and to have another chance to play for the most prestigious title in sport. She knew all too well in sport that anything can happen once the competition gets underway.
In the final Ding faced her London nemesis Li Xiaoxia. It was a perfect start for the top seed, taking the first and third games for a 2-1 lead. But the defending champion wasn’t letting her title go so easily. Li took the next two games and led 3-2, just eleven points away from a second gold medal.
But Li wasn’t going to see double digits again.
Ding took the final two games 11-7, and secured a revenge win and a gold medal.
Ding Ning now thinks of Rio as her ‘lucky place’. Wouldn’t you? Maybe she will make a return visit to finally take in the sights of the city.
Checkout the video below to see Ding Ning reflecting on her Rio 2016 gold medal experience.