Chinese pair Ma Lin and Chen Qi came back from one game down to
beat their Polish rivals 4-1 and secure a place for China in men's
doubles last 4 in the table tennis tournament of the 2004 Olympic
Games here Thursday afternoon.
Ma and Chen, who conceded their opening game 8-11 despite a
6-1lead, displayed an adorable fighting spirit to crush Polish duo
Lucjan Blaszczyk/Tomasz Krzeszewski in the following four games
11-6, 11-6, 12-10 and 11-7.
"After losing the first game, I felt great pressure," admitted
Ma Lin, who had suffered a major upset from Swedish veteran Jan-Ove
Waldner, who shut Ma out of the quarterfinals of men's singles with
a 4-1 victory Wednesday evening.
"Fortunately we calmed down quickly and displayed our true
capabilities in the following games," said Ma, ranked world No.2 in
singles and a top favorite for singles gold before his Wednesday
"It was crucial that we came back from 7-10 down in the fourth
game and win 12-10. This had hit hard on our opponent's
self-confidence," he added.
Chinese head coach Liu Guoliang looked much relieved when he
walked out of the competition venue, the Galatsi Olympic Hall in
northwest Athens. Coaching the Chinese men's team for just less
than two years, the 28-year-old Liu, a "grand slam" winner of
singles titles at world championships, world cup tournament and the
Olympic Games, also came under much pressure as three of his best
players crashed out of the Olympic tournament in one single
Waldner and his old pal Jorgen Persson successfully stopped
their long-time rival, Chinese veteran Kong Linghui and his young
partner Wang Hao from going further in men's doubles with a 4-1 win
Wednesday afternoon. The Swedish table tennis legend dealt a second
blow on the powerful Chinese in the evening by disqualifying Ma in
"I'm glad that Ma could shake off the shadow of yesterday's
defeat so quickly and play very well in today's doubles match,"
"I think he will concentrate on the doubles now and fight for
the best result," he added.
However, the Chinese coach also conceded that with only one pair
of players left in the last four, it had become "very difficult"
for the Chinese, who played an all-Chinese doubles final in Sydney
2000, to defend their title.
Liu also praised the 20-year-old Chen for his excellent
performance at his first Olympic Games.
"I think he wasn't bothered by the tense atmosphere and loud
noises on the court at all, and he was always bold and resolute in
attacks," said Liu. "This is really good for a young player like
The Chinese pair will play Michael Maze/Finn Tugwell of
Denmarkin a semifinal match scheduled for Friday morning.
With a 4-1 win, the young Danish pair had prevented Waldner and
Persson, 39 and 38 years old respectively, from fulfilling their
wish to take one medal in the doubles event.
Despite a large crowd of European supporters cheering him on
with much enthusiasm, Waldner, who might have used up his good luck
in his Wednesday matches against China, played a bit tensely and
even failed to convert a 10-6 lead into a winning game in the fifth
and last game of the match.
With a disappointed look, the Swede left the court with a stern
face and didn't answer any questions from the press.
The Swede still had a chance for medal in the singles, but he
needs to beat European champion Timo Boll in the quarterfinals
Both the Chinese players and their coach Liu said they were
unfamiliar with their next rivals from Denmark.
"Ma and Chen never played them before," said Liu."But we will
stick to our game plan and tactics and give full play to our own
In the other two quarterfinal matches, South Korea's medal
favorites Lee Chul Seung and Ryu Seung Min suffered a 4-1 upset
from Russians Dimitrij Mazunov and Alexei Smirnov. However, Chinese
Hong Kong's Li Ching and Ko Lai Chak overwhelmed Slobodan
Grujic/Aleksandra Karakasevic of Serbia and Montenegro 4-1 to set
up another Asian-European clash in the semifinals.
(Xinhua News Agency August 19, 2004)