China’s Chen Meng hopes this will be the start of “my own era” after she defeated compatriot Sun Yingsha to win the women’s singles table tennis title at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday (July 29).
In a battle between the top two seeds and team-mates, Chen lost the first game before prevailing 9-11, 11-6, 11-4, 5-11, 11-4, 11-9 to grab her first Games gold.
Chen and Sun embraced at the end and then together unfurled a large Chinese flag.
China, who have now won 29 of the 34 table tennis golds in the history of the Olympics, will add one more on Friday – the men’s final is another all-Chinese clash between the top two seeds.
On Monday, China were stunned by the hosts in the final of the mixed doubles, Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito’s victory bringing Japan their first-ever Olympic table tennis title.
But China, who swept all the golds in the sport at the previous three Olympics, took over the men’s and women’s singles draws on Thursday to reassert their table tennis supremacy.
Chen said that gold was an emphatic riposte to those who had doubted her – at 27 she is the oldest woman to win the women’s singles crown.
“Over the years, I have experienced a lot, I have lost and I have been questioned,” she said defiantly.
“Only I know how hard it was to win today, so I want to tell myself – you did it.
“I hope from this moment that I can really begin to build my own era,” she added.
Ito, the home hope who had been seen as a threat to the Chinese, took bronze having lost comprehensively in the semi-finals to Sun.
Ito, who like Sun is just 20, admitted that there had been “a gulf in class”.
“My goal was to win, so I’m glad that I could win the bronze-medal match, but I feel more frustrated,” said the Japanese.
“I’m super frustrated.”
In the men’s semi-finals, China’s reigning Olympic champion Ma Long needed seven thrilling games to see off the determined Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany.
Ma meets compatriot Fan Zhendong for gold in another all-Chinese showdown, but the top seed was also made to sweat by Taiwan’s 19-year-old Lin Yun-ju, before emerging over seven similarly hard-fought games.