Friday, August 22, 2008

all three medals go to china

As Atha said... expected result, but anticlimactic. Actually, the match between Li Jiawei (SIN) and Guo Yue (CHN) was far from dull, as was the match between Li and Zhang Yining this morning. The match between Wang Nan and Guo Yue, on the other hand, was pretty boring (I watched the women's semi's in person this morning).

Women's SF
Zhang Yining (CHN) vs Li Jiawei (SIN): 4-1 (-9, 8, 10, 8, 5)

Li Jiawei started out taking the first game, like in the teams final, and looking pretty sharp. However, she still couldn't pull through, losing the next three very tight games. Li wasn't able to hang on to any leads she had (including a 6-3 lead), and Zhang simply performed better in the clutch, plain and simple.

The thing about Zhang Yining's game is that her rallying skills are so good and so solid that she can let her opponent attack and still win, but when she actually needs to turn up the offense, she can do it and not screw up. Basically, she's a coach's dream. She's calm and collected, doesn't choke, and can pull through when the going gets tough.

Anyway, she seemed to have a harder time against Li today than in the team final, when (with the exception of the first game, which Li won at 9) Li only managed 14 points in the 3 games she lost. This time, Li took her shots, smashing forehands (she uses pips on her forehand) and putting points away when she had opportunities [see videos below for examples], and just putting more umph on her forehands than last time.

Don't get me wrong, Li did play very well in their last meeting, but was much more aggressive and seemed to be much more into the match this time around. She put up a great fight, but really is just no match for Zhang Yining.

BUT... what sort of creeped me out a little bit was that after the match ended and Zhang Yining was about to leave, I looked down at her feet and couldn't believe what I saw... CROCS. YELLOW crocs, of all colors... personally I think crocs are man's worst invention ever, and the only reason I didn't completely lose respect for Zhang right then and there is that she's so incredible. O_o eek...

CROCS?!?! Oh boy...

Wang Nan (CHN) vs Guo Yue (CHN): 4-2 (-3, 8, -4, 7, 3, 6)

I'll admit, I REALLY wanted Guo Yue to win, but the veteran Wang Nan pulled through. Initally, I thought Wang Nan was going to win in a landslide, because neither of them had coaches (because both of them are from China). Wang Nan has been around for a while and can probably do without a coach, but Guo Yue has a tendency to choke or freeze and is probably a whole different player when she has no coach. Guo started off the match looking great, ripping forehands and just playing her normal game.

However, Wang started to slow the game down a lot, taking her time picking up the ball and before serves. Who knows how much this affected Guo Yue, but the match started to turn around; Guo started making all sorts of random unforced errors, missing routine (for her) forehands, and started going into backhand-backhand rallies (Wang Nan's strongest game). Instead of challenging and pressuring Wang's wide forehand, which she can no longer catch up to because of her...advanced age, Guo ended up getting herself into a consistency contest, which she would lose to Wang Nan any day. Anyway, it quickly became apparent that the youngster couldn't get herself back into the match, losing the last three games without making much noise.

Well, congratulations to the Chinese players! The bronze medal went to Guo Yue, the silver to Wang Nan, and the gold to Zhang Yining. Kudos to Zhang Yining! She really is something, and being able to get gold medals in singles two consecutive Olympics is no small feat, and, as she herself acknowledged in an interview after the championship match, not at all easy. She truly is the world's #1 female table tennis player right now, and as she's shown in match after match, she has earned and deserves that title. So, while I'm not so thrilled about China getting all three medals (the men will probably have the same result, with all three of them in the top 4), I am absolutely elated for Zhang Yining. She's humble, modest, and a total star.

Check back soon for pics and videos! They'll be up soon, I promise...


nukemdomis said...

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Funny table tennis cartoon about the 2008 Olympics