(by Steve Hopkins, photo (2016) by ITTFworld)
Chinese Dominance has become a common storyline in major table tennis events, and if one just looks at the medal count – the Olympics follows the same pattern. There were seven Chinese opportunities to win a medal at the Olympics, and all seven attempts resulted in medals. In fact, of the three silver medals awarded to China, only Mixed Doubles was the result of a loss to another country (the Mixed Doubles Gold went to Japan).
Things get interesting as one digs a little deeper, however. In Men’s Singles, World No. 1 Fan Zhendong needed all seven games to advance past Lin Yun Ju in the Semifinals. In fact, three of the games Fan won were by the minimum 2 points (and the fourth victory was a three point 11-8 win). The story was similar for the second seeded Ma Long who lost one game in each of his first three matches and needed to pull out an 11-9 win in the seventh game against Dimitrij Ovtcharov to advance to the Final.
There is still Chinese dominance in Women’s Singles – the two Chinese players were a combined 32-3 against non-Chinese players. And the same is true in the Team Events where both the Men’s and Women’s Chinese Teams were stacked with 3 of the top 4 players in the World and none of the other countries can field a team with more than 2 players in the top 10.
So Chinese dominance persists, but its fair to say that the gap may be narrowing. China continues to have the advantage of numbers – with the top of the rankings generally half or more Chinese players (and the other half are the “allstars” from the rest of the world), so don’t expect this to change over night. But at this Olympics, neither Semifinal match was decided until the last point in Men’s Singles and China didn’t sweep all of the Gold medals. Perhaps more parity is on the horizon.