(Beijing, China) - Jun Gao (Gaithersberg, Md.) defeated Sayaka Hirano (JPN), 4-1 on Wednesday to advance to the fourth round in Olympic table tennis competition.
"It was the first time we've played each other, so I just wanted to get out there and fight," Gao said of her match against the three-time World Team Championships bronze medalist.
The two players felt each other out during the first game before Gao took the win, 14-12.
With her rhythm down, Gao controlled the second game, dropping only one point, but the third game would be another close one with Hirano earning the win, 12-10.
"I was too relaxed. I hit down the line three times in the third game and kept missing, otherwise I would have won that one," said Gao who came back from a 7-9 deficit to hold at deuce (10) before losing 10-12.
Gao returned to form in the fourth with a 11-7 win and edged out a nail-biter in the fifth, 14-12.
"She played wonderfully," said Coach Doru Gheorge (Colorado Springs, Colo.) "The Japanese player is really tough and every game gets harder and harder, but I knew she could do it."
Gao will play Wu Xue (DOM) in the fourth round at 11 a.m. on Thursday. Gao has beaten Xue in two of their three previous meetings.