China sweeps table tennis golds
LONDON -- China delivered one of its most pressure-packed gold medals of the London Olympics on Wednesday, completing the sweep of all four table tennis titles with a 3-0 victory over South Korea in the men's team final.
The sweep was expected, and anything less could have prompted shakeups in the government bureaucracy that oversees the sport. Table tennis is a source of national pride in China, with some jokingly calling it "China ball."
China has won 24 of 28 gold medals since the sport entered the Olympic program in 1988. The Asians won two gold and two silvers in singles at the London Games. They could have won more, but nations this time were limited to two singles players instead of three.
China also took the women's team gold on Tuesday.
Many believe the "real" men's final came in the semifinals when China defeated a stubborn Germany led by Timo Boll, the top-ranked non-China player in the game.
China's Ma Long defeated Ryu Seung-min, the 2004 Olympic singles champion, in the first set of the best-of-five series, which combines singles and doubles. That set the stage for China's sweep with gold medalist Zhang Jike beating Joo Sae-hyuk, followed by the doubles victory.
Zhang, who struggled to beat Joo, turned to the pro-China crowd after the gold was sealed and raised his right fist in a salute, reminding them he'd delivered.
Germany defeated Hong Kong -- a team composed of three players born in mainland China -- 3-1 to take bronze on Wednesday.
The gold-medal match prompted traffic on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter. Predictably, there was overwhelming support for China's team, but also comments questioning the cost of winning gold in so many sports. Some called it an "obsession."
Adham Sharara, the president of the International Table Tennis Federation, has encouraged China to share its expertise, afraid the world will grow bored of dominance by one country. He said they have been cooperating.
"It will change in the next four or five years," Sharara said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. "You will see other teams will win. Otherwise, of course, it's very disturbing to have the same -- whether it's China or the U.S. -- winning for too long."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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