Liu Guoliang the mastermind
Photo By: An Sung Ho
2012 Olympic Games
Veni vidi vici; just like Julius Caesar in 47 BC after the short war against Pharnaces II of Pontus, the Chinese came, they saw and they conquered in the ExCeL Arena at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
They captured every available medal on offer and none was the colour bronze. In the Menís and Womenís Singles events they won both gold and silver, a step aheasd of the field. In the Menís and Womenís Team competitions it was gold on each occasion; again a step ahead
On Wednesday 8th August, they concluded matters in the grand manner. They beat Korea in the final of the Menís Team event by three matches to nil; just as it had been for Julius Caesar two thousand years earlier, it was a short war. Furthermore, they took no prisoners.
It was a gallant display by the Koreans but it was very much a case of staving off the inevitable; simply the aces in the pack were held by China.
Ma Long started faster that the trains on the nearby Docklands Light Railway; in the battle of the gladiators with the mighty forehands, he raced into a two games to nil lead against Ryu Seungmin.
One wondered of the sense of occasion might affect Ma Long; quite the reverse, the sense of occasion lifted Ma Long to greater heights as he benefitted from the limitations of the Korean`s pen-hold style of play.
Ryu Seungmin is the last of the Mohicans; he is the last remnant of the traditional style of play using one side of the racket only, the style employed so successfully by Yoo Nam Kyu at the Seoul Olympic Games, the man who sat courtside as the Korean advisor.
It had also worked for Ryu Seungmin in Athens four years earlier, it was not to work against Ma Long; the Chinese star did experience problems in the third game when he became somewhat passive but a good talking to by Head Coach, Liu Guoliang, soon put Ma Long on the express line.
Ma Long won 11-6, 11-6, 6-11, 11-4.
Watching Ryu Seungmin scamper about the court at full throttle delighted the packed auditorium in the ExCeL Arena; watching Joo Saehyuk return the ball with his amazing defensive skills left the crowd open eyed in awe.
He won the first game but gradually, Zhang Jike established a rhythm, he became more and more accustomed to the artistry of the Korean and in four games moved his team one station nearer the terminus.
China in Control
China was now in control; any hope of a Korean miracle had been doused; just as the Torch burned brightly in the nearby Olympic Stadium, so the glow on the faces of the Chinese supporters gleamed ever wider.
Zhang Jike returned to the table to partner Wang Hao; they showed no mercy whatsoever. They beat Oh Sangeun and Ryu Seungmin in straight games.
There was a glimmer of hope in the second game when the Koreans established an 8-7 lead but the glimmer never grew any brighter.
The Chinese duo won the next four points before securing the fourth game to conclude the inevitable.
Wang Hao and Zhang Jike won 11-4, 11-8, 11-6.
It was a command performance; the players hugged each other and Yoo Nam Kyu, in true Olympic spirit, walked towards Liu Guloiang, put his arm around his shoulder and congratulated the Chinese mastermind on his success.
Moments later all six players and respective coaches, with arms around each other posed for the photographer; adversaries in the gladiatorial arena, friends when proceedings had finished.
Welcomed with Open Arms
A high level of sportsmanship had been displayed throughout the 12 days of competition had seen joy, elation and desolation.
On the final day, the Olympic spirit had shone through, table tennis could hold its head high; the 2012 London Olympics Games, the best ever was the universal feeling.
Table tennis had come home and it was welcomed home.