Category Archives: olympics

Olympic Table Tennis Men’s Singles Day 2 Results: Anton Källberg Defeats Nikhil Kumar 4-0

After USA’s Nikhil Kumar was the only player to win two matches on day 1 (due to every other player having a bye) in the men’s singles table tennis event at the Tokyo Olympics, Sweden’s Anton Källberg squashed any hopes of a cinderella run for Kumar with a decisive 4-0 victory in the round of 64. We present a recap as well as a brief summary of other notable Day 2 results below.

Game 1

Källberg won the opening point of the match with a strong half-long serve return to go up 2-0 with serve. Nikhil Kumar struggled mightily with Källberg’s famous serves early in the game as he made four service return errors to fall into an 8-3 deficit. After a pretty block and slow spinny loops from Kumar coupled with two errors by Källberg, Kumar was able to cut the lead to 8-7. However, Kumar then yielded three straight solid openings to Källberg, giving Källberg the first game 11-7.

Game 2

Källberg landed several pretty counters early in game 2, which combined with a slight edge on serve return and consistency on the openings, gave Källberg a comfortable 9-3 lead. Kumar was able to score two nice counters himself, but Kumar then missed his own serve and a counter following a strong half-long opening from Källberg to comfortably give Källberg the second game 11-5.

Game 3

Källberg won game three 11-6, but the game felt like much more of a bloodbath than the score reflects. Källberg was far more solid on both the opening and the rally as he built a 6-0 lead, including a nasty chiquita at 1-0 that left Kumar confused. Kumar let out an audible groan when he pushed a serve return in to the net, and he then proceeded to miss another opening to give Källberg an absolutely commanding 10-2 lead. Although Kumar was able to catch Källberg off guard with an impressive block and two nice pushes on the serve return to close the gap to 10-6, Källberg’s lead never felt truly threatened as he won the next point off a chiquita on the serve return to take the game 11-6.

Game 4

Kumar built a small early 4-2 lead in Game 4, but Källberg ripped a half-long as he landed a series of agressive openings and went on an absolute tear, which despite a time-out from Kumar when down 5-4, resulted in a 9-1 run from Källberg to close out the game 11-5 and the match 4-0.

Notes

Källberg will play Taiwan’s Lin Yun-Ju in the round of 32. Lin is only the fifth seed in this tournament, but many (including apparently the Chinese National Team) consider him to be the second-biggest threat to the Chinese in the men’s singles event behind Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto.

Full brackets and results for the men’s singles can be found here. One of the more notable Day 2 results is Paul Drinkhall qualifying for the round of 32 despite only making the Olympics at the last minute as a replacement for the injured (and now retired) Vladimir Samsonov.

Full brackets and results for the women’s singles can be found here. One notable Day 2 result is 17-year-old Shin Yubin (who despite her low rank is a potent threat as she swept through the Korean Olympic trials and defeated Miu Hirano at WTT Doha in March) survived a seven-game scare against 58-year old pen-hold pips blocker Ni Xialian.

In the mixed doubles events, Japan’s Mima Ito and Jun Mizutani, who saved eight match points against Germany’s Patrick Franziska and Petrissa Solja in a seven-game win, booked a finals spot alongside China’s Liu Shiwen and Xu Xin. WTT’s further summary of Day 2 scores and results can be found here.

The remaining round of 64 matches will conclude on Day 3 (July 26, local time).

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out the rest of our Olympic coverage.

If you are based in the United States, be sure to also check out our exclusive interview with Kanak Jha and a tournament that Edges and Nets will participate in hosting in San Diego in mid-August.

Olympic Table Tennis Women’s Singles Brackets and Results

After a day of the preliminary rounds, the final 48 players in the Olympic table tennis women’s singles are now set. A full bracket of the tournament results is shown below. Scores and results will be updated daily.

A zoomed out picture of the draw of the top 16 seeded players can be viewed here. A brief description of the day one results can be found on the WTT website. Check out our recaps of selected matches on subsequent days on our Olympic coverage page.

The women’s singles event has concluded. Chen Meng defeated Sun Yingsha 4-2 in the finals to clinch gold, and Mima Ito won bronze after beating Yu Mengyu in the bronze medal match and losing to Sun Yingsha in the semi-finals.

The men’s singles bracket can be viewed here.

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out the rest of our Olympic coverage.

If you are based in the United States, be sure to also check out our exclusive interview with Kanak Jha and a tournament that Edges and Nets will participate in hosting in San Diego in mid-August.

Olympic Table Tennis Men’s Singles Brackets and Results

After a day of the preliminary rounds, the final 48 players in the Olympic table tennis men’s singles are now set. A full bracket of the tournament results is shown below. Scores and results will be updated daily.

A zoomed out picture of the draw of the top 16 seeded players can be viewed here. A brief description of the day one results can be found on the WTT website. Check out our recaps of selected matches on subsequent days on our Olympic coverage page.

Ma Long and Fan Zhendong will play in the finals at 5 am PDT and 21:00 local Tokyo time.

The women’s singles bracket can be viewed here.

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out the rest of our Olympic coverage.

If you are based in the United States, be sure to also check out our exclusive interview with Kanak Jha and a tournament that Edges and Nets will participate in hosting in San Diego in mid-August.

ITTF Responds To German and Chinese Complaints Over Olympic Court Sizes

After both the German and Chinese teams have complained about the size of the court, Chinese state media reports that ITTF has responded by moving the umpire tables back half a meter away from the table. However, they are unable to expand the size of the court due to wiring underneath the floor.

Both Xu Xin and Liu Guoliang complained about the small playing arena to Chinese state media several days ago. Liu said, “The whole playing space is smaller than usual… world competitions normally have areas measuring seven by 14 meters… I just measured it at six by 11 meters. There will be two referees’ tables as well which will cover a big area. I’m worried about athletes’ safety if they start running”

Xu stated, “We have been noticing the size of the playing area throughout. Several side serves hit the screen board (at the side of the court) and we were slightly affected.”

Liu also complained about the COVID restrictions, saying to state media, “We didn’t expect some epidemic rules like not wiping the game table with your hand, or blowing (on the ball).” However, it should be noted that virtually all of these same exact COVID restrictions were also in place when China hosted the World Cup last Fall.

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out the rest of our Olympic coverage.

If you are based in the United States, be sure to also check out our exclusive interview with Kanak Jha and a tournament that Edges and Nets will participate in hosting in San Diego in mid-August.

Mima Ito vs Sun Yingsha Olympic Preview

Arguably the most interesting storyline across all Olympic table tennis events is whether Mima Ito can finally dethrone the Chinese women from their stronghold over Olympic table tennis. Ito has the biggest chance to do so in the single’s event, and if she receives some help from her teammates Kasumi Ishikawa and Miu Hirano, she has a chance to do so in the team event as well.

Frankly, even a finals appearance from Ito in the women’s singles event would be a big deal. Luckily for Ito, she drew Sun Yingsha for her semi-final match-up (as opposed to the more challenging Chen Meng), and a win over Sun would make Ito the first non-Chinese finalist in the Olympic women’s singles event since Kim Hyang-mi in 2004.

In the team event, a China vs Japan final is also highly likely. In such a match-up, Mima Ito would be the “ace” player who plays two singles matches, so China essentially gets to pick which two of Chen Meng, Sun Yingsha, and Liu Shiwen play Ito. Given Liu’s relatively weak head-to-head record against Ito, it is very likely that China will select Sun to play against Ito for perhaps the second time in the Olympics.

We take a look at what to expect from a Sun Yingsha vs Mima Ito match-up.

The Mima Ito vs Sun Yingsha Rivalry

Although Sun is the clear favorite over Ito, the two have somewhat of a budding rivalry as they are of similar age and world ranking. In an interview with WTT, Sun said that her favorite match is her 2019 World Team Cup win over Ito, in which Sun came back from 7-10 to win five straight points to take the deciding fifth game 12-10, and that she likes to re-watch that match starting from the player entrance until the very end.

Sun has the superior 4-1 head-to-head record against Ito in four out of sevens since 2018, including their most recent match-up at the 2020 World Cup. However, several extrinsic factors may tilt the scales slightly more towards Ito’s favor in the Olympics. While the World Cup was in China, the Olympics will be in Tokyo. This benefits Ito both in terms of crowd support and any potential lopsidedness in the quarantine process due to event-mandated or national government-mandated restrictions.

Of course, the biggest extrinsic X-factor hovering over the Tokyo Olympics is that the pandemic has completely disrupted day-to-day life and there has been no international competition since March. While China has had its highly publicized internal scrimmages and Japan has likely also had similar internal competitions, players like Kanak Jha have noted that there is still a significant difference in feeling between smaller internal competitions and bigger international events. A general sports maxim is that chaos and high variance help the underdog, which in this case is Ito.

Ito caused a stir among Chinese netizens when she allegedly claimed to have figured out a strategy to defeat Chen and Sun back in March before they were even selected to the team. On the other hand, Chinese table tennis legend and two-time Olympic singles gold medalist Deng Yaping recently claimed that Ito is not a serious threat to the Chinese women’s team.

Deng also provided live commentary for Sun Yingsha’s 4-2 win over Mima Ito at last year’s World Cup. We take a second look at the match, and take a closer look at some of Deng’s comments on the Sun vs Ito match.

Please note that the Chinese commentators are sometimes loathe to speak critically or reveal information about their own players, so Deng’s comments were actually more heavily focused on Ito than Sun. This bias is reflected in this blog post.

Big Picture Strategies

Deng noted that the key battle in this match-up was to see whether they could make the point about spin or speed. Ito’s preferred manner of winning points was to go for speed and left-right placement.

On the other hand, Deng stated that Sun’s strategy should have been to give spinny (whether underspin or topspin) balls deep into Ito’s backhand, which would give Ito problems due to her short pips and close stance to the table. Sun could build an additional advantage by constantly changing the pace and playing the point to her own rhythm rather than at Ito’s frantic top-speed pace.

As Sun built a 3-0 lead in games, Deng remarked that two keys to Sun’s lead was her superior ability to control the rhythm during the match and Ito’s tendency to commit errors, including even on her own serve. Deng also felt that Ito was playing too rushed in trying to play the game at a fast speed.

Spin vs Speed

Let us take a closer look at how the spin vs speed tension embedded itself into the match. As noted above, Ito largely won rallies by leveraging speed and left-right placement to put winners past Sun on the wide wing (or at least make it so that Sun could barely touch the ball) or to jam Sun on the elbow as shown in the clip below.

Meanwhile, one way that we can see that Sun was prioritizing spin and arcing the ball over speed is that she rarely missed into the net. When she did miss into the net, it was on points like the one shown below where Ito caught her off guard wide on the wings, and Sun couldn’t execute a full stroke properly.

While Ito was trying to score fast winners and ending the point more quickly, Sun’s approach was to land deep spins onto the table mostly towards Ito’s backhand. Sun was also willing to grind out the point for an additional shot or two until Ito missed due to difficulties controlling deep, spinny balls when standing close to the table with her pips.

In the clip below, we can see thatS un tended to target Ito’s backhand and, unlike Sun, Ito frequently missed both into the net and out of the table as she had trouble handling Sun’s spin, depth, and control of the pace. In the slow-motion replay at 6-5 in the first game, we see that the ball lands near the white baseline before Ito punches it into the net.

Deng also noted that Ito made four relatively unforced forehand errors in game 2 as shown in the clip below, a problem that would plague Ito throughout the match.

It is imperative for Ito to clean up these errors in Tokyo. Not only does giving four points away in one game make it nearly impossible to win against a Chinese player, Deng further noted that as a result of Ito’s unreliable forehand, Ito’s only option to win points was to rely on her backhand punch, and Deng Sun would try to take advantage of this restriction.

Ito will undoubtedly be less error-prone in both the rallies and her serves (more on that later) in Tokyo, but there is a question of how intrinsic Ito’s errors are to her style of play. First, since high-arcing spinny loops like Sun’s almost never go into the net and topspin helps drag the ball down onto the table the harder the player spins, Sun’s loops are intrinsically more robust against errors than Ito’s flatter hits. Second, hypothetical longer rallies in which Sun is able to continuously volley in deep spins favor Sun, so it is in Ito’s interest to take riskier shots and end the point more quickly, whether as a winner or as an error, so Ito will appear to make more errors. Hence, while it may be easy to lament what the game would be like without “easy” errors on Ito’s side, it may be unrealistic to hope for her to play as error-free as the Chinese.

Mima Ito’s Experimental Serves

Liu Guoliang stated in 2019 that one of the reasons that Ito has been able to consistently challenge the Chinese National Team is that Ito is not scared to experiment with new plays and techniques. However, that experimentation always comes with growing pains. Deng noted that Ito introduced some new serves at the World Cup, and that while Ito may be able to land that serve in practice every time, executing that serve in a real match is another story. Ito missed three serves over the course of the second and third game, including a critical serve down 8-7 in the second game (the same game mentioned above in which she missed four forehands).

Ito’s service woes continued in WTT Doha this March, as she missed three serves against Hina Hayata in the WTT Contender Finals, and she had this infamous sequence against Yu Mengyu that WTT has absolutely loved sharing.

However, Deng also noted that one of Ito’s unique characteristics is that even when she’s missing, she keeps trying. Indeed, these high-cost experiments come with a reward. We see in the clip below that when Ito was able to properly execute the experimental serves that she was missing, Sun actually appeared quite confused and gave very desirable returns to Ito (even though Ito loses some of these points in the end).

A big question is whether Ito can clean up the exploration and fully exploit the new serves that she has at the Tokyo Olympics. While it’s tempting to assume that of course Ito will clean up her act for an event as important to her as the Olympics, Ito was likely also banking on being able to play in an international tournament between WTT Doha and now. Without that experience, will Ito have enough confidence to execute these experimental serves at critical moments?

Mima Ito’s Short Pips Serve Return Magic

The worst possible serve to give to Mima Ito is a short serve to her backhand against which she can work her wonders with the pips. Even against short serves to the forehand, Ito will sometimes step in and take the serve with her pips. We see in the clip below some examples of damage that Ito was able to do using her pips on the serve return against Sun.

To prevent Ito from taking all short serves with her pips, one common strategy is to mix in long fast serves to the backhand. As noted in a previous blog post, left-handed players have even sometimes altered their starting serving position pattern in what is perhaps an attempt to allow for better long fast serves to Ito’s backhand.

Deng also mentioned the straight serve (i.e. no sidespin) as a possible method to keep Ito from wreaking havoc with her pips. After Ito missed a straight serve return against Sun in the point shown below, Deng offered praise for the straight serve, noting that, “Players with pips do not like straight serves [with no sidespin]. They actually like the sidespin, because they can borrow your sidespin and punch the ball.”

Sun mostly stuck with standard pendulum and shovel serves with sidespin, which are clearly her preferred serves, throughout the match, but it may be worth keeping an eye out for more straight serves from Sun against Ito.

Beware the Mima Ito Comeback

As Ito won Games 4 and 5, Deng was constantly bemoaning Sun’s wasted opportunity after blowing a 9-7 lead while up 3-0, declaring that the match should already be over with a 4-0 victory for Sun. However, Deng also acknowledged that Ito is extremely adept at making come-backs as she tends to go for broke and swing at everything when she is down, and those shots always seems to land.

An astute watcher may have also noticed that some of Ito’s more creative serves and serve returns shown above come when Ito is down big. Ito also tends to turn her creativity up another notch when she’s down as she loses fear over taking risky shots.

We see examples of Ito launching comebacks with crazy shots in the first game (in which Ito came back from 10-6 to force a deuce), second game (when Ito narrowed the gap from 10-3 to 10-6), and the fourth game (in which Ito came back from 9-7 while trailing 3-0 in games).

Sun is still the favorite over Ito, but we’ve seen that if enough things break right both technically and mentally for Ito, she has a very real chance of upsetting Sun and making her way into the finals.

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out our other analysis posts and the rest of our Olympic coverage.

If you are based in the United States, be sure to also check out our exclusive interview with Kanak Jha and a tournament that Edges and Nets will participate in hosting in San Diego in mid-August.

Olympic Table Tennis Draws Released

Update: We have posted brackets and results for starting from the main draw (final 48) onward for both the men’s singles and women’s singles events. Check out our recaps of selected matches on Day 2 and onwards on our Olympic coverage page.

WTT posted the following images on their Instagram story with the full draws for the mixed doubles and team events and the top 16 seeds in the singles events at the Tokyo Olympics:

As a reminder, here are the seedings for each of the events:

Here is the tier list of China’s perceived biggest rivals in the singles and team events:

On the men’s singles side, China catches a break as their two biggest perceived rivals, Lin Yun-Ju and Tomokazu Harimoto, end up in the same quarter-final bracket. Ma Long in particular must be pleased with his draw as Fan Zhendong draws the winner between Lin and Harimoto.

On the women’s singles side, Sun Yingsha draws Mima Ito, the sole tier 1 rival, in her semi-final bracket, giving Chen Meng a significantly easier path to the finals than her teammate.

Ito should be pleased that she draws Sun Yingsha instead of Chen Meng, who has had a more dominant last couple years and better head-to-head record against Ito compared to Sun. On the other hand Harimoto is perhaps the biggest loser of the men’s singles draw as he draws Lin in the quarter-final draw, who at least in the eyes of China appears to be the strongest low seed in the tournament, and then draws top seed Fan Zhendong, whom Harimoto has a weaker head-to-head record against compared to Ma Long, in the semi-finals.

Among the lower seeds, the biggest winners are essentially those who drew Hugo Calderano and Cheng I-Ching in their semi-final group, who are quite clearly a step below the other top four seeds (particularly Cheng). In particular, in the round-of-16, Bernadette Szocs gets a chance to repeat her upset in WTT Doha over Cheng. Dimitrij Ovtcharov also gets a stab at Hugo Calderano in a potential quarter-finals match-up.

After Jang Woojin blew a perfect chance at WTT Doha enter the top eight and improve his odds of getting a good draw, the odds ended up being in his favor as he draws virtually an ideal draw in Calderano’s part of the bracket far away from the other Asian powerhouses. Similarly, after failing to capitalize on Cheng I-Ching’s poor performance and break into the top four at WTT Doha, Kasumi Ishikawa catches a break as she ends up in the same semi-finals slot in Cheng I-Ching.

An account affiliated Hugo Calderano has also published the draw for the earlier rounds:

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out the rest of our Olympic coverage.

If you are based in the United States, be sure to also check out our exclusive interview with Kanak Jha and a tournament that Edges and Nets will participate in hosting in San Diego in mid-August.

Chen Meng Interview on Her Mentors and Olympic Preparations

Chen Meng recently sat down with WTT for an interview on her Olympic preparations and relationship with several mentors. The transcript (in Chinese) and related images can be found here. We provide an English translation below.

Since when did you feel that you can take on the heavy responsibility of the competition?

Probably in the three competitions [All China National Championships, World Cup, ITTF Finals] after the pandemic restart in 2020. After these three tournaments, it felts okay, but it felt like something was missing. But I don’t know exactly what was missing either. But after these three tournaments, in fact, from my heart, my control, and understanding of myself, I felt confident that I could take it one.

Li Xiaoxia and Zhang Yining are your idols, who do you think you are more like?

Because the personalities may be different, I don’t think I can imitate them, but to be a better version of myself. If you try to imitate, you can’t imitate it, because personality, including some playing styles, are actually not the same. But the type of experience they have, because I usually go to some of their previous games, including the Olympic Games, I think it’s more to learn from their experience. When I reach the moment how should I better help myself get through this time. How to help myself shake off bad moments, and sometimes to learn when it’s good, how they conduct themselves when it’s going well.

Who would you ask to share their experience with you?

Sister Xia, because she belongs to the Shandong team! So I have been with her more since I was a child. Generally, I would ask her for some advice, including now more often from Director Ma [Ma Lin]. Because they all have this kind of experience in the Olympic Games, and they are all successful experiences. So I will learn from them, including preparing for the battle, including what kind of feeling it will be at the Olympics. I will often ask them.

Are you ready for the Olympics?

At the beginning, I was thinking that I haven’t participated, so there were some areas that I felt worried about. But when I think about it later, in fact, I think everything has its pros and cons. Because I have never participated, I am full of expectations for the Olympics, and I am very excited. So in terms of preparing for the battle, I think it will feel fresh. In fact, I feel that this kind of Olympic Games during the pandemic is the first time for everyone, and they have never experienced it. In fact, everyone is the same.

Can you imagine what it’s like on the Olympic Games?

Actually if you ask me to think about it, I really can’t imagine what it looks like. But I went to talk to Director Ma, and he would tell me what it’s like in the Olympics. What he said to me is that you will feel that the surrounding environment will bring you a very nervous atmosphere, because everyone wants to play well and want to win the championship. It’s actually a competition, but the layout of the venue is all five rings. So it always gives you a feeling of excitement and pressure. In fact, he said that as long as people want to fight well, everyone is actually under the same pressure.

And the errors in this environment, it’s not like your usual errors where they don’t matter. Then you feel that everything must be cared for and cherished. However, when he told me this feeling, I didn’t really understand it at first. But after telling me many times, and even after I watched some games, I can actually feel a little bit like this. But I think I have to feel it myself. Prepare yourself, and then make yourself stronger, and then when you face all your opponents at the competition, you will not be scared.

How will the pressure be relieved?

I usually like to talk about it when I am under pressure. I think talking, finding someone who I trust and talking, I think saying it out loud is actually a good kind of release for me. And I don’t like to make myself heavy. I like to be in a relatively relaxed and happy state.

Is there a group of relatives and friends around you, probably a few people, who frequently answer your calls?

Yes, of course.

About four or five?

There aren’t that many. Actually, there are only two of them. I don’t think there are too many people you want to talk to. As long as they understand you and can listen, I think it’s actually enough. If you just listen to what I have been saying, I can speak for about 30 minutes. As far as I am concerned, I am actually quite fast in resolving stress. As long as I am uncomfortable, in fact, as long as I say it, I will feel a lot more comfortable. And I won’t have so many distracting thoughts.

What does the Olympics mean to you?

I think it is a manifestation of personal values. Because I think as an athlete, in fact, I think the best stage for you to show yourself is in the Olympics. It gives me the feeling that all eyes are on me. So I hope I can really show my best mental state and competitive state in just a few days. In fact, I think I really think too much, it’s really so useless. When it’s really time, you have done your best, you have prepared what you should prepare, and you have done what you should do. At that point, you can show yourself, you just need to do your best.

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out our translation of Ma Long’s and Liu Shiwen’s interviews with WTT along with other interviews we have conducted and translated and the rest of our Olympic coverage.

Sun Yingsha WTT Interview On Olympic Preparations and More

Sun Yingsha recently sat down with WTT for an interview on her Olympic preparations and her experience at the 2019 World Team Cup. The transcript (in Chinese) can be found here. We provide an English translation below.

How have you changed over the past few years?

The changes I’ve went through over the last two years, including standards for myself, actually I think it has clearly gone up to when I first arrived [onto the team]. When I first arrived, I was always in a fighting state of mind, and I would let it all out on the table. Now, in training I’ve actually seen my progress. Now when I lost a point, I feel like it’s a major pity. I’ve had this feeling since roughly last year’s World Cup, but I still think it’s not enough. I feel like every point should be very precious to me.

How are you preparing for the Olympics?

It always feel like I can never train enough. I still need to train every little aspect. I need to train until leadership, coaches, and I can see progress. Then I can feel confident in myself. If you want to be Olympic champion, then you will always feel that you have not trained enough.

Please recount your 2019 World Team Cup experience [Sun Yingsha came back from down 10-7 to win deuce in the fifth against Mima Ito].

I’ll often think about this competition. It’s been two years now. I’ve indeed watched it many times. I don’t just watch the last few points in the comeback. It’s starting from when we step onto the court, including the entrance and intros. I sometimes watch it all.

Because I feel like this feeling is something that only I can know, including my mood in the game and the scary situation I was in. I was down three match points, with the team score tied, and I had already used the time-out. But now when I think about it, especially during training, it really is the most precious match to me.

Sun Yingsha celebrates in her 3-2 win over Mima Ito at the 2019 World Team Cup
Sun Yingsha celebrates in her 3-2 win over Mima Ito at the 2019 World Team Cup

Compared to the 2019 World Cup, what mental preparations have you made for the Olympics?

That night, I was able to fall asleep, but I didn’t sleep that soundly. That match was already a high-pressure environment. Once I get to the Tokyo Olympics and go to the match, it may be ten times or 100 times more nerve-wracking. But I think having experienced it [the 2019 World Cup] before, this time it will be slightly better. At least I know this kind of feeling, even if it’s just usually, because international competitions are hard to come by these days, but I have a little ground on to stand on during training.

What do the Olympics mean to you?

First of all, the Olympics really are a stage that many athletes want to play on. In my heart, I find it equally super cool. And right now I’m just speaking from imagination, but once I’m playing in the Olympics I really just need to go out and compete. Athletes all look beautiful on the court, and if I want to win the achievement of my life, I think I must do this kind of thing well. The goal of the Olympics in my mind may never change.

Can you maintain self-discipline in order to achieve your goals?

I can definitely do it. Even if I lack some understanding or care of myself, I feel that this goal of the Olympic Games in my heart, including winning the Olympic gold medal, has always been impossible for me to shake.

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out our translation of Ma Long’s and Liu Shiwen’s interviews with WTT along with other interviews we have conducted and translated and the rest of our Olympic coverage.

Liu Shiwen Interview on Injury Rehab and Olympics

Liu Shiwen sat down with WTT last week for an interview with WTT on her recovery from an elbow injury and her role as the mixed doubles player and veteran women’s team member at the Tokyo Olympics. A translation is provided below. Pictures were taken from here.

How is your injury rehab going?

So far, it’s been going quite well. Ever since January, my physical and technical condition have been gradually improving bit by bit. Actually, I feel like the hardest part was during that time when I was hurt. During that time, I really felt hurt and confused, and I faced a lot of unknowns, so emotionally I felt like I was crumbling. After deciding to get surgery, I had to start over and prepare from scratch.

And even though the recovery process after surgery has been difficult too, overall I consider it to be going smoothly. Every day, I can see my improvement, and I feel like my condition is even better than before I got hurt. And during the recovery, my fighting spirit has also gradually been recovering, like I’ve found my motivation in life and in ping pong again. Because during that time, really every day was painful and confusing, never knowing what the situation was. I was very worried, and I had to face it. And it was hard to face the confusing injury situation and Olympic situation. When you don’t know how it is to face it, i makes you feel like you’re crumbling.

After getting surgery, a lot of it was just recovering from the pain, just constantly testing the pain and then adjusting myself. Actually, I felt like this was more targeted motivating. Then everyday was just trying to conquer myself and then live well day by day. This is quite motivating and challenging.

What helps you get to the game back faster?

In the early stage, I feel like it’s because of the people around me. I feel like it’s because the entire coaching staff, including teammates like my doubles partner Xu Xin, still believe in me. Even though I was hurt for so long, they still really believe in me. I feel like this has given me a lot of power. Actually when I first started rehab, I felt like the time was very tight. I didn’t know if I would be able to play to the level of, let’s not even talk about the Olympics, my normal training condition. I really didn’t know.

But with everyone giving me encouragement combined with the Olympics and the mixed doubles event, I felt like these two points simultaneously gave me a lot of support that allowed me to get through the early stages of laying a foundation, which were really difficult.

Liu Shiwen gets elbow surgery
Liu Shiwen gets elbow surgery

What was it like the first time you returned to playing?

I think the first time I picked up a paddle again was in Guangzhou during the league match [presumably she is referring to this event in December]. At that time, I just wanted to move around and try it out a bit. Actually training was out of the question.

Then in Chengdu [in December], it felt pretty similar. However, when I was in Chengdu, my teammates were all on holiday. Really when I was able to return to gathering, training and eating with my teammates was around January. Actually, I was pretty happy and calm. I feel like to be able to return with my team and train with everyone [made me happy]. Because before that I had to do a lot preparations, I hadn’t played for almost a year, and I had just recovered from surgery. I feel like just returning to the team isn’t easy. Because you have to keep up with everyone else’s training rhythm and competitiveness. This requires a very high standard.

And after returning to the team, even though I couldn’t completely return to training, sometimes I couldn’t keep up, just being around everyone and seeing everyone train inspired. So I still had the desire to return to my previous level. I wasn’t thinking about the Olympics. I was just thinking about getting a little bit better and finding my best condition.

Have you returned to 100 percent?

Well how do you measure what is 100 percent? Actually I haven’t put too much though into that. I just want to diligently get better a little bit every day and conquer myself. My goal is not to return to my old form. Actually I want to find a new self, to conquer myself continuously, not to compare with how I was playing before. So I don’t think I need to measure whether I’ve returned to my old self. I want to improve bit by bit and surpass my old self.

But now I feel like from the perspective of the mixed doubles at the Olympics, my partnership with Xu Xin has had a big improvement. Even though I have just returned for three or four months, the time we have spent together is really long. And for both of us our main event is mixed doubles, so we have been training together and improving our chemistry a lot, so I think we understand each other even better than before. In this regard, I have a lot of confidence.

From the perspective of singles and other things, I just need to diligently move forward one step at a time.

What are your thoughts on Xu Xin?

First of all I’m very thankful to him. Because I was hurt for so long, and I at the stage when I couldn’t practice, I communicated with him and told him this injury is actually pretty serious. Even though I hadn’t decided to get surgery yet, I kind of knew it in my heart. He put a lot of confidence in me. He told me, “first take care of your injury. We still have time.”

I think our trust in each other is very solid, so even though in the early stages of recovery I was play pretty poorly, he was still always giving me encouragement and trust. I feel like this trust comes from the bottom of our hearts.

I feel like it wasn’t easy for him either, because when I was hurt he had to change doubles partner and it was all very confusing. But I feel like since I’ve returned and we’ve trained together every day, his playing condition is getting better and better. And now that we’ve entered the final sprint in preparations and start to peak, I feel like his condition and his fighting spirit have never been better. I feel like this has driven me a lot, and I really +hope that we can get gold together at the Olympics.

Liu Shiwen and Xu Xin will be playing in the opening mixed doubles event at the Tokyo Olympics.
Liu Shiwen and Xu Xin will be playing in the opening mixed doubles event at the Tokyo Olympics.

Will there be pressure at the Olympics?

Of course there will be pressure. No matter what you’re playing, there’s pressure if you want to win. Well after all, for the Olympics, it’s everyone’s dream. Even though I’ve attended before, the desires you have towards the Olympics still are very strong.

I feel like your desire and motivation to win a championship will certainly give you pressure. Your intensity will definitely defeat the pressure, the dread, and the fear. I feel this very closely, because I feel like after all these years, we’ve gone through a lot to get to where we are today. I think we believe in ourselves. Coupled with the desire for the Olympics, we want to stand on the stage of the Olympics as soon as possible. Then I hope to be able to showcase myself. After all, walking down this road that we do, why do we persist? It is to stand on the Olympic podium.

Have you completed your Olympic preparations?

Although the Olympics have been postponed, our motivation and belief in our hearts has always been there. It feels like you don’t even have to finish saying the word Olympics, and our hair will raise. So even though sometimes we will adjust, maybe we’ll slow down our footwork since the timing and rhythm in the competition are not the same, the words Olympics are always there. We just have to say the words Olympics and we will mobilize ourselves into the zone. The power and desire inside of us is already there.

Hopefully during the final sprint of preparations, we can improve ourselves and make ourselves stronger, and hopefully we will have more confidence at the Olympics.

As an Olympic veteran, how will you guide other players?

I hope I can be useful to the team as a mentor. It’s not just technical things. I think it’s even more on the experience side in many ways, and I hope I can guide my teammates on the women’s team. I think they are undoubtedly very, very strong, but they do lack Olympic experience. Sometimes we will communicate and talk a bit. Once we walk into the Olympic Village, we are a unity, playing for our country, for our team. No matter what kind of task I undertake, I hop fulfill it to perfection. Then I hope that we can complete this task ahead of us to perfection.

What is it like to play mixed doubles as the first event at the Olympics?

It’s pretty good. I’m pretty happy that I’m able to take this responsibility. I’m also very happy that I’m able to complete it with everybody. Actually, before in some meetings and team interactions, I said I would try my best to share my experience with others. Then it feels like I have some value (laughs). Hopefully, I can help everyone, help this team, and in the process I’m also rewarded greatly.

What do the Olympics mean to you?

I believe it is a platform to improve yourself and conquer yourself.

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out our translation of Ma Long’s and Fan Zhendong’s interview with WTT along with other interviews we have conducted and translated and the rest of our Olympic coverage.

Hilights from the Chinese Men vs Women Exhibition Match

The Chinese National Team played an exhibition match between the men’s and women’s team last weekend.

The men started the odd-numbered games (i.e. Games 1, 3, 5, and 7) down 6-8 and the even-numbered games (i.e. Games 2, 4, and 6) down 8-9.

Final Results and links to full matches:

Chen Meng defeats Fan Zhendong 4-3

Sun Yingsha defeats Xu Xin 4-3

Ma Long defeats Liu Shiwen 4-2

Hilights:

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Also, check out the rest of our Olympic Coverage, including our exclusive interview with US Olympian Kanak Jha.

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