The last Olympic season took place in the home country of the strongest Table Tennis team in the world, China. Considering Table Tennis as their national sport and that they were in their own soil, losing was definitely not an option for each player. As expected, the Chinese Team were in complete control over the competition.
The Beijing Olympics was the first Olympics season to have rid of the Doubles as a separate event. Instead, the Doubles was integrated into the Team event which was considered to be the other event of the whole competition aside from the Singles.
China's male delegation consisted of Wang Hao, Ma Lin, and Wang Liqin while the female delegation was made up of Zhang Yining, Wang Nan and Guo Yue. With such a powerful lineup, a lot were asking who Liu Guoliang thought had the most chance of winning.
"To be honest, who will win among the three is the same with who will lose. The game that night was the most anticipated. It was a dream that I have been wanting to see. However, it was also the game that I feared the most. Either way, I wanted to witness first hand the feeling of victory or the fear of losing. As a head coach, I must remain impartial and neutral." Liu Guoliang answered.
Just like in any competitions, the Men Singles was the highlight and China came prepared for battle, aiming for the final round. Indeed, all three Chinese tigers reached the semifinals giving the remaining slot to the only non-Chinese standing, Jorgen Persson.
The second half of the draw was between the two Chinese stars Wang Liqin and Ma Lin. At this point, China was already assured of a place in the finals. In six sets, Ma Lin booked his place in the battle for the gold while Wang Liqin had to settle with bronze.
Ma Lin vs Wang Liqin 2008 Beijing Olympics MS SF
video kindly shared by TableTennisSports
Meanwhile, it was Wang Hao who handled the task of ousting the outsider who was at the same time a living legend, Jorgen Persson. After five sets, Wang Hao succeeded, ensuring China the gold medal. The only question was who between Wang Hao and Ma Lin will be able to grasp the opportunity.
Wang Hao vs Jorgen Persson 2008 Beijing Olympics MS SF
video kindly shared by almal1980
The finals only took five sets with the end result in favor to the veteran Ma Lin with 11-9, 11-9, 6-11, 11-7, and 11-9. Ma Lin eventually took the gold while Wang Hao settled for silver for the second time since the 2004 Athens Olympics. "The competition was cruel. Regardless of playing your best, there can only be one champion. This time, fortune favored Ma Lin." Liu Guoliang commented after the match. In addition, China also took the bronze after Wang Liqin swept Jorgen Persson.
Wang Hao vs Ma Lin 2008 Beijing Olympics MS Finals
video kindly shared by TheManhaut
After the final match, Ma Lin wasn't able to control his emotions as tears fell from his eyes. Those tears were not because of defeat but because of overwhelming joy. "Such tears contain too much. I have not thought about how to celebrate. I must first determine if it was true. It was likely the happiest and most glorious moment of my life. I have waited for 20 years for that moment in my life. I realized my dream and I have no regrets." Ma Lin said.
The success of the Chinese Men Team was reciprocated by the women team as well. Zhang Yining won the gold in the Women Singles with Wang Nan as the silver medalist and Guo Yue as the bronze medalist after defeating Singaporean Li Jiawei.
After overwhelming results in the Singles, the Chinese Team carried their dominance into the Team event. Both men and women were like hurricanes that destroyed anyone who got in their way. The men crushed the German Team of Timo Boll, Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Christian Suss while the Chinese women swept the Singaporeans Feng Tianwei, Wang Yuegu and Li Jiawei.
China vs Germany 2008 Beijing Olympics Men Team Finals
video kindly shared by Mexican3619
China vs Singapore 2008 Beijing Olympics Women Team Finals
video kindly shared by janus770
As soon as all the emotions were settled, the Olympic champion Ma Lin did not forget to be thankful for the opportunity and trust that was given to him. "I think the most important thing is to be thankful. I have received the care from the team and its leaders for so many years. Since my unsuccessful Olympic expedition in 2000 Sydney Olympics and the early defeat in Athens, every step of the journey was certainly not easy. Without coach Cai [Zhenhua] and coach Liu [Guoliang], I won't be able to play and won't be able to achieve such success." Ma Lin said.
Overall, the Beijing Olympic Table Tennis competition ended with eight medals going only to China which included the four gold medals. "We have created a miracle. This was the most perfect ending for the 2008 Beijing Olympics." Liu Guoliang said in the press conference.
China truly defended their national sport very well in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. They showed the world their strength and raised the level of table tennis to new borders. Probably the biggest contributor to their outstanding victory was the advantage of being the host. The crowd, environment and fortune were all in favor for them. The only question now, as we are just days before the London Olympics is if they will be able to repeat such dominance considering that they are in foreign land and that competition is much steeper.
Photo source: pingpang.other.titan24.com