Saturday, August 23, 2008


Well, I wish I could say something interesting about the matches between Wang Liqin (CHN)/Jorgen Persson (SWE) for the bronze and Wang Hao (CHN)/Ma Lin (CHN) for the silver... but I really, really can't.

I give Persson a whole lot of credit for making it all the way to the final four. At 40+ years old, making it to the bronze play-off isn't easy, especially when table tennis is dominated by Asian players, so kudos to Persson!

And, as much as I dislike Ma Lin, kudos to him too. He's looked great all tournament, and he made the world's #1 ranked male player look lost. The reason Atha and I dislike Ma Lin very much is his terrible sportsmanship. An example is his attitude today in his semifinal match against fellow teammate, Wang Liqin; he was showy and obnoxious, and it would be one thing if he showed up somebody from a rival country, but it's definitely not cool to do it to your own teammate. I guess this is a matter of opinion, but to me, it's arrogance and bad sportsmanship.

Wang Liqin took it well, and took the bronze, beating Persson in straight sets. In fact, Wang Liqin has taken a lot of crap pretty well, especially considering he'll probably never have a chance at a gold medal again, and that the 2004 gold medal could have [and probably should have] been his. I really admire him for his dignity and for his composure. For people who don't know, this is what happened in Athens: Wang Liqin and Wang Hao met in the semifinals, and the winner would move on to play Korea's Ryu Seung Min for the gold. Wang Liqin was told to lose to Wang Hao on purpose, because Wang Hao had a much better record against Ryu. So, Wang Liqin lost and Wang Hao got the spotlight, but choked. Badly. I forget what his record was against Ryu, something like 2 losses and 7 wins, but basically, Wang owned him.

But Wang froze up, embarrassing himself, disappointing the Chinese, and shocking the world. And the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, of all places, was his opportunity to redeem himself. He's been playing extremely well of late, and had looked completely dominating throughout the last couple of weeks, but looked completely shut down against Ma Lin tonight. Against everyone else he played, Wang Hao really looked like the world's #1, but against Ma, he just looked... lost, like he didn't know what was going on. He made unforced errors all over the place, always found himself trailing and having to work really hard to fight back, and missed routine shots. An example is when he was down 7-5 in the 5th; he missed two routine backhands that put him down 9-5, two points away from losing the match and that could have tied the score at 7-7 to give himself a chance at coming back.

Still, I don't really feel sorry for him... he was basically given the gold on a silver platter last Olympics, and still couldn't get it. He clearly has problems performing on the big stage; he was simply out-done by better players in 2004 and 2008, Ryu Seung Min and Ma Lin. Ma was pumped all day, starting in the semi's and carrying all the way to the end (so excited, in fact, that he came close to ripping off his shirt after winning the match... ew). He came out the gates with fire in his eyes, pressuring Wang Hao and shutting down the world's #1 from the start, never giving him the chance to come back. Since they are both from China, neither of them had coaches for the match, and this definitely favored Ma Lin; Ma is a little bit older than Wang Hao and has been on the big stage more, so when it came down to a mental and emotional competition, Ma won by a long shot. Ma usually has a tendency to choke or suddenly be tentative when he has a lead (as in the 2007 World Championships final against Wang Liqin), but not tonight; he held on and hung tough the whole match, and it paid off.

Once again, expected, but anticlimactic: China's men sweep medals in singles. Congratulations to all six Chinese players, and to everyone who put up one hell of a fight!


Tsoi Dug said...

Could you please somewhere tell us which player is which in the videos?

Steph said...

Ah.. do you have any specific ones in mind? I'd be happy to tell you who's who, but I'm not sure how to do that effectively by just listing all of them. Hope you enjoyed them, though =]

dinesh said...

ya wang liqin downfall seems because of internal politics