Ma Long lived up to his reputation as the greatest paddler of the modern era by becoming the first man to win two Olympic singles gold medals. Second-seeded Long defended his Olympic title at Rio 2016 by beating seed Fan Zhendong in a 100% Chinese final at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Friday night.
The final lived up to his expectations, especially after the two Chinese favorites beat German Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Lin Yun Ju of Chinese Taipei in a tense semi-finals that went on the wire.
Even though Ma Long sealed the title 4-2, the hour-long encounter saw the two paddlers take part in breathtaking rallies. He won 11-4, 10-12, 11-8, 11-9, 3-11, 11-7.
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It was ultimately Ma Long’s experience and expertise that meant that the world No.1 fan will have to wait another three years to get his hands on the yellow metal.
Ma Long, nicknamed Dragon, meanwhile upped his game when it mattered the most. Two years ago, winner of all major tournaments on the international table tennis calendar and three-time reigning world champion, a knee injury could have ended his brilliant career.
But the Dragon spat venom to end the tournament on a historic note. Since the inclusion of table tennis in the 1988 Olympics, each of the eight singles gold medals had been won by different paddlers. Ma Long has resisted the trend, defending her title in style.
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Earlier in the evening, Ovtcharov repeated his 2012 feat in London by pocketing the bronze medal. The German superstar saved four match points in Game 6 against promising left-hander Lin, some cheers after losing an epic battle against the future champion in the semi-finals.
In the women’s singles Thursday, China’s Chen Meng defeated Sun Yingsha in an all-Chinese battle to win gold in her Olympic debut. Mima Ito of Japan won bronze.
After a day’s break, table tennis action will resume on Sunday with the men’s and women’s championships.