by Simon Daish
Beijing 2008: China 3-0 Singapore
Introduced in 2008, the team discipline’s Olympic debut took place in the Chinese capital of Beijing and as destiny would have it the main plaudits went to the host nation.
More than 4,000 fans crowded into the Peking University Gymnasium on Sunday 17th August, with the majority lending their support for their beloved Team China. Wang Nan helped the hosts to an early lead, recovering from an early deficit to beat Feng Tianwei 3-1 (9-11, 11-3, 11-8, 11-6). Loud cheers sounded out throughout the venue and the volume increased further with Zhang Yining, World no.1 at the time, powering past Li Jiawei (9-11, 11-3, 11-4, 11-7) to move China ever closer to the title.
Zhang returned to the table once again as she and Guo Yue completed a clean sweep victory for China with their successful doubles exploits against Li and Wang Yuegu (11-8, 11-5, 11-6). Defeat for Singapore, but the country did take home a first Olympic medal in 48 years – two years later the team would go one to become champions of the world!
London 2012: China 3-0 Japan
Four years on from securing the first-ever Olympic women’s team gold medal, China was presented with an opportunity to successfully retain the crown as the world’s greatest descended upon London in 2012.
Negotiating the opening three rounds with perfect 3-0 records, there was an air of optimism surrounding the Chinese team. However, in the lower half of the draw Japan matched China’s performance and posed a serious threat to the defending champions at the final hurdle.
Li Xiaoxia set any early nerves to rest after she came out on top against Ai Fukuhara in the match opener (11-6, 9-11, 11-2, 11-5), and before long the ball was firmly in China’s court as Ding Ning brushed aside Kasumi Ishikawa (11-4, 12-10, 11-4). As was the case in Beijing, Team China once again placed its faith in Guo Yue for the doubles encounter and it paid off with Guo and Li outpacing Sayaka Hirano and Ishikawa 3-1 (11-6, 11-3, 9-11, 11-5). Celebratory scenes erupted amongst Chinese fans at the ExCeL London with the country’s flag flying the highest at the medals ceremony.
Rio 2016: China 3-0 Germany
From Asia in 2008, to Europe in 2012, the Olympic Games visited a third continent in 2016 with Rio de Janeiro, Brazil presenting the sporting extravaganza to South America. A change of scenery, but China was chasing the same result from its two previous outings on the stage.
Seeded first, it came as little surprise to see China secure its ticket to the final – it was the awaiting opposition that caught the eye: enjoying an impressive campaign from start to finish, Germany posted a most reputable semi-final victory over London 2012 runners-up Japan! The European team proved capable of taking on the best, China would approach the final with an added air of caution.
China’s player order selection proved spot on as Li Xiaoxia, a defensive minded player’s worst nightmare, breezed past Han Ying in straight games (11-9, 11-3 11-7). Then it was Liu Shiwen’s turn to deliver the goods, marking her Olympic final debut with victory over Petrissa Solja (11-3, 11-5, 11-4). Liu then combined with newly crowned singles champion Ding Ning to fend off a brave challenge from Shan Xiaona and Solja in the doubles (11-6, 11-5, 9-11, 11-7). The result meant China extended its unbeaten run across three Olympic Games, but on the happiest of days there were also tears, with the close of play signalling Li’s last involvement in international table tennis, ending her brilliant career as she started it, in style.