by Simon Daish
Shock exits and a brilliant debut
Playing host to the event for the second year in a row, the French city of Nîmes once again provided the stage for the table tennis giants of the world to compete for one of the most prestigious trophies on the sporting calendar, the Perrier 1996 ITTF Men’s World Cup.
Four dramatic days in the arena, fans in attendance witnessed shock group stage eliminations for former gold medallists Jörgen Persson, Zoran Primorac, local idol Jean-Philippe Gatien and defending champion Kong Linghui. Another headline grabber was Vladimir Samsonov who, aged 20 at the time, toppled the mighty Ding Song on his way to a sensational bronze medal finish on his World Cup debut!
Liu Guoliang joins exclusive club of champions
The man who would end up stealing the show however was Liu Guoliang, cementing his place amongst the best in history. Topping his group, Liu added Patrick Chila’s name to his list of victories before accounting for 1994 runner up Jean-Michel Saive. Just one step away from glory, but a daunting foe in Jan-Ove Waldner stood in Liu’s way.
A tight contest from the opening point of the match. For Waldner, the opportunity to end a five year long wait to earn a second gold at the event had presented itself, while Liu was looking to join an illustrious group of superstars with his first.
Enjoying the finer start, 1995 bronze medallist Liu took games one and two with plenty of margin for error to move to within a game from the title. Not content with his early showing, Waldner moved his efforts up a gear and began to see some success. Victor in game three, the Swedish icon pushed his Chinese counterpart all the way but it wasn’t to be his day, as Liu held firm to make his dream a reality in four games (21-14, 21-10, 19-21, 21-17).
Don’t miss more World Cup drama with #RESTART
Now over two decades since Liu Guoliang’s title success in Nîmes, the Dishang 2020 ITTF Men’s World Cup is just around the corner and you can follow the action live!
One of three events welcoming back international table tennis as part of the #RESTART series, the ITTF Men’s World Cup is bound to deliver edge of the seat drama. You won’t want to miss out!