Ma Long Makes History With Second Olympic Men’s Singles Gold Medal

Ma Long makes history in Tokyo (Photo: ITTF)

China’s Ma Long has successfully defended his Men’s Singles title at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games after defeating fellow countryman and top-seed for the event, Fan Zhendong, in a six-game spectacle (11-4, 10-12, 11-8, 11-9, 3-11, 11-7).

Heading into the final, all-eyes were on second seed Ma to see whether he could overcome the odds and win yet another Olympic gold medal. In doing so, he would become the undisputed ‘G.O.A.T’ (Greatest Of All Time) of male table tennis for being the only player to ever win two gold medals in the men’s singles category.

Out of the gate with a flash, Ma powered through his compatriot Fan in quick fashion, taking the first game with ease. Top seed Fan managed to seize upon some untimely mistakes from his opponent, tying up the score-line as one game apiece. Despite this, Ma fought back with a bout of spectacular form and energy to out-play his rival in the following two games, and although Fan managed to clinch the fifth game, it would be Ma who would ultimately prevail. As a result, Ma successfully defended his Olympic title, adding his name to the annals of history.

In addition to his historic achievement, Ma Long also boasts three back-to-back World Championship titles, as well as now having four Olympic gold medals to his name. With the Men’s Team event just around the corner, the newly dubbed greatest of all time player could add a further gold to his collection, exiting Tokyo 2020 with a breathtaking number of five gold medals.

“I think both Fan Zhendong and myself achieved our goal of making it an All-China final. We are now determined to get the gold medal again for the Team’s event. I was enjoying myself and did not put too much pressure on myself today. You have just got to go out there and do your best. If your opponent makes a mistake, you take advantage of it. I managed to do all of that today. When you play against a quality player like Fan, you must be in top form and cannot afford to make too many mistakes. I guess I have the experience of winning on the biggest stage, including the Olympics, and that probably gave me the edge over him today. Looking ahead to the Team’s event, we need to regroup as it’s no longer an individual effort anymore. We need to play to each other’s strengths and follow the game plan. It’s nice to see all the compliments about me. I want to continue playing table tennis for as long as I can. I like to thank my team and my family for their support and encouragement all these years.” – Ma Long

While surely disappointed with second place, Fan Zhendong’s Olympic debut should be commended; the top-seed put up a strong fight against the eventual champion, challenging Ma all the way to the very bitter end. Furthermore, a silver and potential gold in the team event would mark an outstanding achievement that Fan should be extremely proud of.

“I had my chances but just couldn’t take them today. Although I could not win a gold medal, I still managed to win a silver on my Olympics debut, so that is something I can be proud of. There can only be one champion in a competition. I have to continue working hard as there are still certain aspects of my game which can be improved.” – Fan Zhendong

Clinching bronze in a seven-game thriller was Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov. The number seven seed truly punched above his weight, winning his second Olympic medal (having claimed bronze in London 2012) despite his inferior seeding. Ovtcharov defeated number five seed Lin-Yun-Ju of Chinese Taipei in the third-place play-off (13-11, 9-11, 6-11, 11-4, 4-11, 15-13, 11-7).

“I truly feel the last four days felt like five years. I really believed that I could go all the way. Then suddenly, I was almost knocked out by Hugo. Then I pulled myself back and had such a great match against Ma Long yesterday. Everything broke apart at the last point. I called my dad and my wife and said I never want to play table tennis again. It’s really too hard. But they gave me so much strength, and my dad said to me that if I’m going to win again today, the world will be great again. But yesterday evening, I didn’t even believe I could lift a racquet again. My dad was right. I won today, and everything feels amazing again. He had so many match points, and I felt it was over for me. But he missed, and in a blink of an eye later, I felt I had some divine help, and I was so delighted to be back in the game. Sport is incredibly crazy. On the one hand, I invested so much time and effort for that one single point. On the other hand, it can be so ugly when you do so much, and you lose by one point. It’s just insane.” – Dimitrij Ovtcharov

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