The duo met four years ago at the London 2012 Olympic Games Women’s Singles Final, with LI taking down DING 4-1 to win the Olympic Gold.
Today at Riocentro Pavilion 3, where all the Olympic table tennis actions went on, both players pushed each other to the full limit in the final showdown, but this time the result was reversed.
With the support of her fans who flew all the way from China, DING was not going to let history repeat itself, fighting back from two to three games down to take her revenge 4-3 (11-9, 5-11, 14-12, 9-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7) against LI.
“This is unbelievable! I can’t believe that I am Olympic champion. I have waited so long for this, it is a dream come true!” shared the top seed who broke down into tears after her victory, and ran to hug her coach seated in the spectator zone.
DING added “I think it was difficult for both my Coach, CHEN Bin. I have so many titles, but I have never hugged him after my victories. Tonight, it’s all beyond words. At that last moment, it was a contest of determination.”
“London made me more experienced. I was able to forget the sad memory of the defeat and focus on the match. Going into the Final, I told myself just to fight for my dream.”
With the Olympic Singles Gold in bag, the world number two is only the fifth female athlete to achieve the table tennis Grand Slam.
Already crowned the Grand Slam Champion in 2013 when she won the World Table Tennis Championships, LI remained calm and shared that Rio will be her last Olympic Games:
“I can’t keep up this high level training. My body is not getting any younger. I tried to retire at the start of the year but they asked me back because they needed me. I will come back again if they need me but the current team is very strong so I think they will be ok.”
“This was a great opportunity for me to return to the Olympic Games. I had a lot of injuries at the start of the year physically and internally. In 2015 I was hospitalized for ammonia. I had a lot of thigh troubles. For me right now, the training is too much to handle. I did fulfill my task and defended against the international player and made the final.”
LI also commented on their rematch, “Four years ago, I had no burden and no expectations going into the Games. Now I have more burden as there are more requirements of me from the leader. I regret that I didn’t have more time to practice as the result might have been different. I did not have enough practice so I could not control the pace of the game. Congratulations to Ding Ning.”
Determined not to go home empty handed on her birthday, KIM was all pumped against Ai FUKUHARA in the Bronze medal match to take home DPR Korea’s first ever Olympic table tennis medal.
The Olympic debutant raced to a 3-0 lead in just 23 minutes into the match. Despite FUKUHARA’s efforts to turn the tides in her favor by taking the fourth game 14-12, the four time Olympian failed to break past the defensive blocks of KIM.
KIM eventually prevailed 4-1 (11-7, 11-7, 11-5, 12-14, 11-5).
“Although I only got the Bronze medal, I am still very happy,” stated the 21-year-old. “I want to present this medal to our great supreme leader.”