Taiwan’s Chuang Chih-yuan (莊智淵) was defeated by China’s Wang Hao (王皓) 4-1 in the semi-finals of the men’s singles table tennis at the Olympic Games yesterday.
Chuang, who was set to compete for the bronze medal later in the day, lost to second-seeded Wang 11-13, 11-2, 12-10, 11-6, 11-9 in a match that lasted 39 minutes.
Chuang reached the quarter-finals of the men’s singles at the Athens Games in 2004 before falling to Wang 4-2. He then suffered a surprise defeat in the round-of-32 in Beijing.
If the 31-year-old fifth seed defeats eighth seed Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany in the bronze medal match, he would become the first Taiwan-born table tennis player, male or female, to clinch an Olympic medal.
China-born Chen Jing won a silver medal representing Taiwan in the women’s singles in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1996 and a bronze in Sydney in 2000.
Defending world champion Zhang Jike (張繼科) of China defeated Ovtcharov 4-1 in the other semi-final.
“I promise we will put on the best match ever,” Zhang said after winning his semi-final.
Zhang spoke before Wang even played, predicting another match against his No. 1 rival. That is the kind of confidence the Chinese players have — Zhang in particular. He has been talking up his chances for gold from the first day.
“Before it even began, I told myself I would win,” he said.
Zhang is the rising star — 24, and the new face of the men’s game. He defeated Wang a year ago in the final of the world championships and has beaten him in their past four matches.
Wang is 28 and trying to break through after losing the last two Olympic singles finals — in 2004 to South Korea’s Ryu Seung-min and in Beijing in 2008 to fellow Chinese Ma Lin (馬琳).
“I want that gold medal very much,” Wang said. “The silver medals are in the past.”