China beats Germany for team table tennis gold
BEIJING (AP) The world's table tennis teams came to Beijing knowing a silver-medal finish was the best they could hope for.
The Chinese men's squad overpowered Germany 3-0 on Monday to capture gold in the team event, in yet another display of the country's dominance in the sport. Led by Wang Hao, the world's top player, the team of former Olympic medalists secured China's second table tennis gold in as many days.
"It's the team competition, it shows the country's strength in the sport, so we really wanted this gold," Wang said.
The Chinese women's team won their title the previous night, beating Singapore 3-0. China has captured 18 of the 22 table tennis golds awarded since the sport was added to the Olympics in 1988.
Monday's medals were the first to be awarded in men's team table tennis, which replaced the doubles competition. South Korea won the bronze, beating Austria 3-1 earlier in the day.
"This is the maximum you can reach in the team event," Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov said of the second-place result. "China is too dominating, they are the best team in the world, we have to accept it."
A few tense moments for the home team came during the match between Ma Lin, the world's second-ranked player, and No. 6 Timo Boll, the top European threat to the Chinese in the upcoming singles competition.
Boll, a left-handed player who is also a pingpong heartthrob, was able to dominate the flow of the game at times, forcing Ma into the rare position of having to lunge unsuccessfully for the ball.
Boll had previously beaten all three players on the Chinese team, which also includes Wang Liqin, during the World Cup in 2005 but managed to win only one of his four games against Ma.
Germany has never beaten China in their 18 meetings.
"We tried everything to find out the weak point of the Chinese players. It was very difficult to find them," coach Richard Prouse said. "On the other hand, they found some weak points in the Germany team."
The Chinese players and coach Liu Guoliang, himself a four-time Olympic medalist, grabbed each other in a group hug after the win. They then joined hands with misty eyes and gave three bows - a traditional gesture of respect in China - to each side of the gymnasium.
The top-ranked Chinese generally play closer to the table while the No. 2 Germans tend to fall back 10 feet and take big swings at the ball. But the Chinese were equally proficient from any distance, forcing the Europeans into off-target returns.
Wang made quick work of Ovtcharov, one of the pingpong's rising stars who was hapless against his more experienced opponent. The 19-year-old struggled to string together returns for a rally.
"Of all the amazing players, he is number one in the world," Ovtcharov said. "I was a little bit nervous today in this match, it was my first Olympic finals."
Ovtcharov drew chuckles with his unusual serve. The lanky, 6-foot-1 player would crouch down to where he was eye level with the table, then unfold himself slowly before smacking the ball away with a backhand.
The final point in the match had Ovtcharov falling nearly to the ground to reach the ball. Wang jumped in the air after sealing his win, yelling and waving his paddle like a rock star brandishing a guitar.
A partisan home crowd cheered on the Chinese, waving flags and rattling plastic noisemakers. Shouts of "Ti-mo! Ti-mo!" were drowned out by chants of "Go China!" though the spectators cheered for exciting rallies even when Germany ended up winning the point.
The announcer tried to lessen the home-field advantage somewhat by leading cheers of "Go China! Go Germany!"
In the bronze medal match, defending singles gold medalist Ryu Seung-min of South Korea struggled early, losing 3-1 to Austria's Robert Gardos, ranked 47th in the world. But he rebounded in the fourth and decisive match, beating Austria's Chen Weixing 3-0 with a number of powerful rallies.