For China, it is two gold medals down — and two to go.
China has won gold and silver in the women’s and men’s singles, and took their opening match on Friday in the women’s team event. China defeated Spain 3-0 to reach the quarter-finals behind singles gold medalist Li Xiaoxia, silver medalist Ding Ning and Guo Yue.
Team play is a best-of-five series composed of four singles matches and a doubles match.
Second-seeded Japan also advanced, beating the US 3-0.
China is under pressure to win all four gold medals, which would give it 24 of 28 since 1988 when table tennis entered the Olympics.
In public, nobody seemed to celebrate the first two gold medals, because the job is only half done. However, on Friday the women looked relaxed.
As many as 500 million Chinese are expected to watch each of the finals on TV, making the players celebrities at home.
China displays great team unity. The goal is clear.
All players grew up in the state-run sports schools, which are run by top government officials. State-run media reported recently that for the first time all six table tennis players at the Olympics would be Chinese Communist Party members.
Men’s coach Liu Guoliang called this an “honor” that would help the players improve by “following the higher standards for Communist Party members.”
Li represents the new generation, the latest in a long line of Olympic women gold-medal winners.
She follows sports icons Zhang Yining, who took four gold medals in the last two Olympics. Wang Nan won hers in three Olympics — 2000, 2004 and 2008. Deng Yaping started the string with four in 1992 and 1996, and went on to be one of the faces of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
In other first-round results, the Netherlands defeated Egypt 3-0, Hong Kong defeated Austria 3-1, South Korea beat Brazil 3-0, Singapore won over Poland 3-1, North Korea defeated Britain 3-0 and Germany beat Australia 3-0.
In four men’s matches on Friday, Hong Kong defeated Brazil 3-0, Austria beat Egypt 3-0, Portugal defeated Britain 3-0 and Germany defeated Sweden 3-1.
Top-seeded China and No. 2 South Korea were to play yesterday, against Russia and North Korea respectively.