At age 24, Zhang Jike is the world's number one, reigning world champion, world cup champion and Olympic champion, breaking all known records in table tennis! Zhang Jike has set a new standard and made another milestone in his career that will be written in table tennis history.
May of last year in Rotterdam, Zhang Jike first step his foot on the World Championships Men Singles. Who would have known that a first timer like hims would surprise the world with his performance. Probably the most critical part of the competition was his victory against the German Timo Boll. That gave him more confidence in the finals against Wang Hao. In six sets, Zhang Jike was hailed as world champion. This was also his ticket for the London Olympics.
A few months later in November, Zhang Jike was set for another world competition: the World Cup in Paris. Basing from the criteria, Zhang Jike and Wang Hao made it to the list. Once again, the two met in the finals and for the second time, Zhang Jike won, clinching the World Cup title.
This year, after a rather unfortunate fate for Ma Long in the Korea Open, Zhang Jike took the place as world's number one after winning the title in Incheon. Since then, Zhang Jike has never left the top spot until the London Olympics.
Zhang Jike had his debut in the Olympics last July 30. The opening match was safe but the second round was tough. He was 2-3 against Vladimir Samsonov. With the encouragement of Liu Guoliang, Zhang Jike surpassed the hurdle. Since then, Zhang Jike's matches did not reach the full stretch anymore. He defeated Jiang Tianyi and Dimitrij Ovtcharov in five sets, sealing his place in the finals.
For the third time, Zhang Jike faced his favorite opponent, Wang Hao in the final match of another world competition. The opening set proved to be crucial but after winning it, Zhang Jike became a domineering figure. In five sets, Zhang Jike was hailed the Olympic champion and a new Grand Slam winner!
After the awarding ceremony, Zhang Jike graced an interview. Surprisingly, the new Olympic champion didn't have a trace of excitement or overwhelming joy. "We still haven't completed the Team competition. It is still not necessary to be that excited. I want to thank a lot of people but the one who I would like to thank the most is brother Hao (Wang Hao). He is excellent. In the arena, we are opponents but outside, we are brothers."
Due to his young age, a lot actually thought that he could be the youngest to have won the Grand Slam. Zhang Jike,with humility, corrected such.
"I'm not the youngest Grand Slam winner. Coach Liu became a Grand Slam younger than I am now." Zhang Jike said in a press conference after the awarding ceremony. However, he acknowledged that he is the fastest player to achieve all of those world titles.
First Grand Slam winner, Jan Ove Waldner had to spend more than three years to complete the Grand Slam while it took Liu Guoliang three full years. The third winner Kong Linghui had to spend a little longer in five years for his Grand Slam dream to realize.
It is only Zhang Jike who was able to complete the Grand Slam in 445 days, thats one year and 80 days! The Tibetan Mastiff has created a fantastic record in the world of table tennis! This is considered to be an astonishing breakthrough in the history of table tennis, making Zhang Jike a living legend at age 24.
Zhang Jike is the 2012 Olympic Champion
Photo source: sports.sohu.com