Athens 2004

August 20, 2004

 Wang Nan Talks About Her Recovery


(This is a translation of an article written by the chief editor of Table Tennis World.)


August 19, 10 pm: Wang Nan barely held back her tears and left the playing hall.


August 20, 3 pm: Wang Nan wears the women¡¯s doubles gold medal and has a huge smile on her face.


¡°Wang Nan is a great player. After the setback in singles, she made the adjustment overnight. She and Zhang Yining played extremely well as a pair. She deserves the praises¡±, coach Cai Zhenhua said after the gold medal match.


In only 17 hours, how did she recover from that loss which severely damaged her confidence, to play so smoothly to beat her opponents? Let¡¯s hear from Wang.


¡°I cried because I had let so many people down.


¡°Against Li Jia Wei, I played as if in a daze. I walked out of the court, and it hit me that I have lost.


¡°I was very well prepared. I had never worked harder than in the two closed training sessions. I played well the previous two rounds. In that Li match, the first game was very important. I felt that I had not even started really playing, and I was well behind already. My attack lanes were all well defended, and I was following her. Later I played as if I had hand-cuffs.


¡°I was not worrying about myself when I left the hall. I just felt that so many people had wanted me to win. Coach Cai had been working with me in those sessions, and several provincial ministers came to watch me play. They believed that Wang Nan had the best hopes for the gold medal. But I played poorly and let everyone down. I felt really sorry.


¡°When the CTTV reporters interviewed me, I was holding back the tears. Once I was not on camera, my eyes turned red. Everyone I saw was shaking his or her head apologetically, including those players from other countries. Some patted me on my shoulder. I felt worse and worse. When I got on the bus, my tears started flowing.


¡°After a while, I got a little calmer, and I felt that losing to Li was not an unusual result. I cannot win all the titles. Wang Nan cannot win them just because Wang Nan wants to. Against Li, my style holds no advantage. And I had the pressure: I was afraid to lose, and was tight. She was fighting for everything, and I was burdened by the pressure. Even though I kept telling myself not to press hard, it was very difficult to keep up with her.


¡°When I thought some more, I felt that perhaps it was meant to be. Four years ago I came back from a 16-20 deficit, and she was crying. This time she won, and I cried. If I had not won in Sydney, I would not be the same Wang Nan today. A loss is just a loss. I must convince myself of that. If I kept reliving that loss, it definitely would affect Zhang Yining¡¯s mood. She is the only one left in singles. It is more than just a gold medal. Our whole team needs a title to lift our spirits.


¡°So when I got back to the Olympics village, I did not appear too depressed. Coach Cai was still worried, and he talked to me a lot, from mental attitude to strategies and tactics. Our other leaders also were concerned, and worried that I would repeat that Asian Games experience, when the team loss led to a total collapse. When I got back to the room, Zhang was fixing her blade. We calmly discussed how we would play the Koreans. When I went to bed, it was well after 1 am.


¡°My mind actually cleared up after the loss. I realized that the strategy and the tactics are simply some of the reasons, but the key is that I could not play my game. This is different than what happened at the Asian Games. This time I have not tried to blame myself incessantly, and I have not doubted my own ability. I felt relieved. I lost the singles, so that there is really nothing else except to do my best in doubles.


¡°Zhang and I were happily chatting before the doubles match today. We did not feel nervous at all. I already lost in singles which I wanted so badly to win, so there is nothing more to be nervous about.


¡°Against this Korean pair (Lee/Suk), we were fully prepared. In the finals Zhang and I matched up very well. She is a few years younger than me, and we lived in the same room when she first joined the team. We have been nice to each other. She has a simple personality. Sometimes she would inadvertently say something that I was not happy to hear, but we both never took it to heart. She does not dwell on every petty detail like some other girls do, and I like that. After she became one of our core players, the media always referred to us as number one and number two, as if we were competing constantly, and that made us feel really awkward. During the recent training, the coaches analyzed us as a pair, because they were concerned that she was a little afraid of me, and that she would worry that I would blame her if we lost. The coaches clarified those things, and that was like a liberation for Zhang. That is one of the reasons we are able to win today.


¡°I was not as emotional after this match as last time, but I am really very happy. Besides fulfilling my duties to the team, I have overcome myself. I did not collapse because of one loss, like I did in Pusan¡±,  Wang Nan said.


(Chung¡¯s notes: The gold medal match was almost an anti-climax after the thrilling bronze medal match. CCTV-5 carried game 7 of the Niu/Guo vs. Kim/Kim match, and I was lucky to be able to watch it live. The lead alternated, and no side could lead by more than 2 points. At the end, Guo and Niu made some great loops, and Kim Kyung Ah and Kim Bok Rae tightened a little and missed the returns. The bronze medal may not seem that important, but it really is a major accomplishment for the Chinese team who had been under immense pressure after the upsets, not just in table-tennis but in the other sports where China was favored to win. Niu and Guo were both in tears after that match. In that gold medal match, Zhang and Wang totally dominated the opponents. It was the best performance by far of the pair that I have seen. Mostly importantly, they played a very relaxed, very fluid game. Zhang will need that freedom from the intense pressure to beat Kim Kyung Ah in singles.)

 Wang Hao Beat Chuan in Quarters


In the men¡¯s singles quarter-finals today, Wang Hao faced Chuan Chih-Yuan from Chinese Taipei. Coming from behind, Wang beat Chuan 4-2 to advance. After the match, Liu Guoliang prasied Wang¡¯s performance.


Wang lost game 1 and pulled even after game 2. He then lost the 3rd game, but won the next three to eliminate Chuan. Liu felt that Wang played very well, and took out the biggest obstacle in the top half for China.


¡°In the past Wang had not done well against Chuan, and he lost the last two times they played. This time, he placed himself at the right level, and fought as if he were the lower-ranked player. He was successful in his tactics. In the first three games he fell behind because he played the short balls too much¡±, Liu said.


Wang felt that he won because he had the better fighting spirits. ¡°Chuan had a very good backhand, so I tried to move the ball to his forehand. I was successful doing that, and it really affected him. After that, I had the better spirits¡±, Wang told reporters. ¡°At the beginning I was very nervous, but so was he. In game 4, I was able to take advantage of his nervousness, and established control¡±, he said.


(Chung¡¯s notes: The biggest news this round was probably Waldner beating Boll. Since it was very late news, there are very few articles yet on the various Chinese websites. It is interesting to see how the Chinese will do against Waldner, and either Wang Hao or Wang Liqin will have a chance to avenge Ma¡¯s upset loss. There is one article on Waldner that I find interesting. A Chinese ex-coach who wants to remain anonymous explained why there could not be a Waldner in China. The Chinese train all the players as a group. It would be disastrous if an older player like Waldner had to undergo the same rigorous physical training that the Chinese routinely go through. In fact, in the case of Kong Linghui, it is obvious that the hard training might have hurt his performance. The Chinese need to figure out a way to protect the older players by coming up with a different approach to train them.)

Back To Index