In the history of Table Tennis in the Olympics, winners were actually unexpected. Unexpected, in the sense that these athletes didn't have everything at the time of the competition. A winner might be a top seed but not the reigning world champion or a first timer but not the top seed.
No player who is a first timer, reigning world champion and the top seed at the time of the Olympics has ever won the Olympic gold medal. Let us take Jiang Jialiang and Kong Linghui for example. Both were reigning world champions and the favorites to win in the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics respectively, which were also their first Olympic journey. Result: they both failed.
This Olympic Curse actually imply one big reality: the Olympics is just cruel. It can give athletes unprecedented pressure. Even the best players won't be able to handle the pressure and collapse because of the burden.
"This curse is going to break." Zhang Jike said in his Weibo account. Among the participants of the London Olympics, Zhang Jike is the most susceptible of the Olympic Curse as he falls to all three criteria: first timer, reigning world champion and the world's top player. In other words, he almost has everything.
If Zhang Jike will be able to bring home two gold medals, he will become the youngest player in Table Tennis history to have won the Grand Slam. At the same time, Zhang Jike will be able to break the Table Tennis curse for rookies in the Olympics.
Although there is a "curse", it does not rule out the possibility of lifting such spell and Zhang Jike could be the person we have all been waiting for. Although there are a number of premonitions that Zhang Jike's Olympic journey could be sad, people are still optimistic towards him. Primarily because of his wild and domineering characteristics.
In a game like the Olympics, every round is a hard battle and being fierce down to one's bones is just important.
As of now, the very person who we think has the capacity to restrain Zhang Jike in his journey is Ma Long. At this stage, some people consider Ma Long as the biggest issue in front of Zhang Jike. In the upcoming London Olympics, the Chinese Men Team selected Zhang Jike and Wang Hao to play in the Singles while Ma Long only participates in the Team event. With the absence of his nemesis Ma Long, Zhang Jike's hope for the Men Singles gold medal is greatly increased.
In other words, as currently ranked on top of the world and after winning the world championships and the world cup last year, Zhang Jike's biggest enemy in London is himself. So, could he be the right person to break the spell?
Zhang Jike for the 2012 Olympics
Photo source: sports.sina.com.cn