Experts Olympic Predictions

 

(In the August 2004 edition of Table Tennis World, the editors summarized Olympic predictions from experts. Here is a condensed version of the article.)

 

Experts: Sharara (ITTF President), Ahn Jae Hyung (Korean coach),  Li Huifun (Hong Kong womens coach), editor of Japanese magazine World Table Tennis (www.world-tt.com), Genarro Bozza (Italian reporter).

 

Is there hope for the Europeans in Mens Singles? Or in Mens Doubles?

 

Sharara: I believe the two Chinese pairs are the strongest and the most consistent, so they have the best hopes for the doubles gold. But because of the rules, only one pair will make it to the finals. This is a very important point.

 

Japanese editor: Doubles gold will definitely go to the Chinese. Among Europeans, only two players have a chance at MS gold: Schlager and Boll.

 

Among the three Chinese players competing in MS, which one will be the first to be eliminated? Which one has the best chance for the gold?

 

Sharara: This is hard to predict. All three players are very strong, and it is not surprising for any one of them to win the gold medal. Ma Lin did not compete in Sydney, so the Athens Olympics is very important for his career. Wang Liqin only competed in MD is Sydney, and I believe he is very eager to win the gold in Athens. Wang Hao is a young player, but he has the ability to come through, but what he lacks is big game experience. I am most surprised by the fact that none of them competed in MS at Sydney. All three will try their best.

 

Ahn Jae Hyung: This is hard to say. All three of them are at about the same level, and I dont know how they are doing internally. I like Wang Haos chances against external opponents, because his techniques are more advanced, he has speed, and he is smart.

 

Li Huifun: MS should be controlled by the Chinese. Ma Lin is usually up for the big tournaments. Last year in Europe, there was a match that he should have won but did not, and that affected him. Its not good to lose a match like this; it affects one psychologically.

 

Japanese Editor: Wang Liqin may be the first one to be eliminated. Ma Lin has the best chances for the gold medal.

 

Because of the new rules, only one Chinese pair will be in the finals at the most. Which one?

 

Sharara: Thats impossible to guess. Barring upsets, the two pairs will meet in the semis. I dont know how they play each other, but perhaps Kong Linghui has an advantage. He has the Olympic experience, and he is only playing in doubles, so he may focus better.

 

Ahn: The two pairs are both new combinations, but overall they do very well. They are both based on an experience player bringing up a younger player. I personally feel that Ma and Chen have the best chances. Kong is an experienced player and has won gold medals in MS and MD, but may not be as motivated as Ma and Chen. The Korean pair Joo/Oh is a temporary pair and basically has no chances because of their styles. Lee/Ryu has the ability to challenge, but Lee is older and sometimes loses concentration.

 

Li Huifun: I hope that the MD final is between China and Hong Kong. Among the two Chinese pairs, I like the older pairs chances because of the experience.

 

Japanese Editor: Wang Hao/Kong Linghui.

 

Will the Chinese win the WD gold?

 

Sharara: I feel that the Chinese have the absolute advantage. But they have to be careful against the Japanese, DPK and Korean players.

 

Li Huifun: The Chinese should win. I saw the DPK pair Kim/Kim, and they deserve a lot of attention. They are balanced with no obvious weakness, and they fill the positions very quickly. They are a definite threat. The Chinese are less concerned about the Korean pair Suk/Lee, since they are much more used to that pair. Among the two Chinese pairs, I like Niu/Guo more. Our team has never beaten them.

 

Japanese Editor: Of the three medals, the Chinese will win two. Korea, DPK Hong Kong or Japanese has a chance for the remaining one.

 

Who can compete against the Chinese in WS?

 

Ahn: Basically WS is all Chinese. None of the other countries can compete. There is a big gap in technical level, so the other countries cannot pose any threat.

 

Li: We are more likely to see Zhang vs. Wang in WS finals, just like in other major tournaments. Zhang is more ferocious, and Wang is more consistent. It all depends on how nervous they are. Whoever handles that better will win.

 

Japanese Editor: Under normal conditions, the Chinese will win the 3 medals. But Kim Hyung Ah, Tie Yana, Kim Hyon Hui and Umemura have some chances.

 

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China will win everything, except two silver medals C Genarro Bozza

 

Here are Bozzas predictions (after his rant on the rule changes that forbid one country to win both gold and silver in doubles):

 

MS: I feel that the gold will belong to one of the Chinese. Samsonov, Ryu and Chuan can compete, but have relatively little chance of winning. Samsonov may have a chance to beat Wang Liqin (of course Wang has a 80% record agains Samsonov), but he really has no chance against Wang Hao or Ma Lin. He is not as quick, and could not handle their backhands, especially Wang Haos. Chuan beat Wang Hao at the 2002 Grand Finals, but after that he has not done well. Ryu beat Wang Liqin once, but cant beat Ma or Qang Hao. So it may all come down to the draw. I personally think that Wang Hao can beat Ma Lin, and Wang Liqin can beat Wang Hao. So if Wang Hao and Ma Lin are in the same half, the finals will be between Wang Liqin and Wang Hao, with Wang Liqin winning. If Wang Hao and Wang Liqin are in the same half, then Ma Lin will meet Wang Liqin in the finals, with Wang Liqin winning. So Ma Lin or Wang Hao may win the bronze. Neither of them will make the same mistake they made last year: losing to choppers. Basically Boll and Schlager have no chance, and Schlager is slightly better than Boll. In a best out of 7 match, chance plays a small role. The fact that Boll was ranked number one is an indication that the ranking system can lie. All the results indicate that Boll is not competitive enough to beat Ma or Wang Hao.

 

MD: Its ridiculous to think that the Euopeans can medal here. The Koreans Lee/Ryu can  challenge the Chinese, but have little chance of winning. I think Kong/Wang has more potential, and I predict that they will win the gold, and Ma/Chen winning the bronze.

 

WS: The draw is very important. A lot depends on whether Niu is in the same half as Wang Nan or Zhang Yining. Niu has a better chance against Wang. Normally Zhang will play Wang in the finals, and Zhang will win the gold because Zhang has better challenging spirits. Wang has more weakness in her techniques than Zhang, but she also hides her weaknesses better. The final will be a mental war. If Niu beats Wang, then Zhang will also win the gold. Of course, the bronze medal will belong to the Chinese. The Europeans have no chance, and the only challenge comes from Umemura if she plays extremely well, or Koreas Kim Kyung Ah.

 

WD: Similar to the singles. Koreas Lee/Suk will make the finals but can only get the silver. DPKs Kim/Kim also has a chance, but not a great one. Between the two Chinese pairs, Niu/Guo perhaps has the better chance. Wang Nan and Zhang Yining made many errors in the recent Pro-Tour stops. In comparison, Niu/Guo has more speed and range, and Guo has made some very difficult shots. The bronze will go to Wang Nan and Zhang Yining.

 

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