Taiwan’s Chuang Chih-yuan failed to become the first Taiwan-born table tennis player to win an Olympic medal after losing 4-2 to Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany in the bronze medal match on Thursday.
Chuang, seeded fifth, was beaten by the eighth-seeded German 12-10, 9-11, 8-11, 13-11, 11-5, 14-12 in a 49-minute match in London.
The 31-year-old Taiwanese player won the first five points in the opener, but his German opponent rallied and ended up taking the first game. Despite the early setback, Chuang fought his way back and won the following two games.
Chuang had a chance to go 3-1 up as he led in most of the fourth game, but he lost his edge and Ovtcharov won the game following a deuce contest.
The German’s momentum continued and he took the fifth game 11-5.
Under the pressure of being 3-2 down, Chuang missed three game points and the chance to prolong his quest for third place, allowing the German to take home the bronze after three deuces.
“It’s a pity that I failed to earn a medal [for the country] and it made no difference for me being among either the top four or top eight,” Chuang said after the match.
Chuang lost to China’s Wang Hao 11-13, 11-2, 12-10, 11-6, 11-9 in the semi-finals earlier on Thursday.
The Taiwanese player reached the quarter-finals of the men’s singles at the Athens Games in 2004, before falling to Wang 4-2.
Chuang’s performance in London marked the best run by a Taiwanese male table tennis player at the Games.
Both of Chuang’s parents are table tennis players. His mother and coach, Lee Kuei-mei, is a former national team player and his father, Chuang Han-chieh, was a national doubles champion.
Following Chuang’s match, China made it two gold medals in two days — and two silver medals to boot.
In other sports — and in other nations — that would call for chest-bumping, high-fiving, boasting and raucous celebrations. At least a few smiles.
There was almost none of that from Zhang Jike, who defeated teammate Wang Hao in the men’s singles final.
Zhang’s lone hint of happiness, celebrating his first Olympic gold medal, lasted about as long as a good rally.
After the winning point to take the match 4-1, Zhang leaped over a barrier surrounding the playing area — looking like Chinese Olympic hurdler Liu Xiang — raced to the medal podium and kneeled down and kissed the top platform designated for the gold medalist.
“It was spontaneous,” he said. “If you plan everything, you can’t do it well.”
That was the beginning — and the end — of any public show of joy or surprise.
Minutes later on the medal podium, his eyes glazed over and he seemed far away. Taking questions from Chinese and international reporters, he often looked distracted, burying his chin in his shoulder as he looked down.
“We just finished a very exciting competition and so my whole body is still not there,” Zhang said. “I may appear a little down, but that’s normal.”
Chinese players, of course, are expected to win.
The sport is a national pastime for 1.3 billion people and the country has won 22 of 26 gold medals since the sport entered the 1988 Olympics — and beating a friend and teammate calls for restraint and respect.
It was similar on Wednesday in the women’s final when Li Xiaoxia defeated teammate Ding Ning.
It was Wang’s third Olympic final — and third silver medal. He also lost to Zhang a year ago in the finals of the world championships.