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Champion Ryu set for China onslaught
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As the Olympics fast approaches, men's defending champion Ryu Seung-min can be forgiven for feeling a little nervous.

Four years ago in Athens, Ryu stunned China by playing the table tennis of his life to clinch the gold medal.

It was a proud moment for South Korea, but an embarrassing one for China, the superpower of the sport, which was widely expected to whitewash the competition, especially in the coveted men's singles.

Fast forward to 2008, and China's formidable paddlers, their skills honed and with national pride on the line, are set for revenge in Beijing.

In front of thousands of frenzied fans at the Peking University Gymnasium, China is determined to demolish all who step up to the tables, with the South Korean champion firmly in its sights.

But Ryu, ranked No 8 in the world, seems unfazed by the onslaught heading his way, and insists he's looking forward to defending his title.

"No there's no pressure. I've already proven myself at the Olympics. If I were the No 1 player in the world, I suppose I would feel more pressure," the 25-year-old told AFP at a training session in Seoul.

"But I am just one of the players challenging the Chinese or the top players from Europe," he said.

"Even when people bring up the subject of defending my gold medal, I don't feel any pressure at all."

Unfailingly polite and widely respected in the sport - he donated $10,000 to the China earthquake disaster shortly after being beaten by China's top player at the Korean Open - Ryu has stepped up his Olympic campaign to overdrive.

In recent months he has criss-crossed the globe, competing in every tournament in an exhausting attempt to claw his way up the rankings before Beijing and avoid meeting China's paddlers, who are set to be the top three seeds, in the early stages of the draw.

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