Olympics: Fukuhara fails in Rio table tennis bronze attempt
Hopes for Japan’s first Olympic medal in women’s singles table tennis were shattered Wednesday when Ai Fukuhara was beaten 4-1 by North Korean Kim Song I in the bronze match at the Rio Games.
China continued its hold over the event, with Ding Ning beating compatriot Li Xiaoxia to take the country’s eighth gold from eight women’s Olympic singles tournaments.
Before her semifinal match earlier in the day, Fukuhara, a 27-year-old native of Sendai in northeastern Japan, had not dropped a game, but that quickly changed when the 28-year-old Li took her apart, 4-0.
The story was unfortunately similar in the bronze match, with the world No. 50 Kim causing her second major upset of the tournament over a Japanese player. The North Korean knocked Japan’s best women’s player, Kasumi Ishikawa, out of the Rio Games in the third round.
“I was facing my opponent for the first time, but I wish I could’ve changed my game strategy sooner,” said Fukuhara.
“I’ve had both good and bad matches up to now, but at this Olympics, most of my singles matches have been good.”
Kim, who plays the relatively rare and unfashionable chopping defensive style, ran out to a quick lead, taking the first three games 11-7, 11-7, 11-5 before Fukuhara shook herself from a funk to squeeze out a very tight fourth game 14-12.
The awakening was brief, though, as the 22-year-old Kim reestablished control to grab the bronze, her first medal in her first Games.
While Fukuhara posted her best result at an Olympics, the two heavy losses come as a big letdown considering her strong form leading into the semifinals, exemplified by a strong win over world No. 4 Feng Tianwei of Singapore in the quarterfinals Tuesday.
The gold medal match was a seven-game thriller that replayed the London 2012 final.
The match pitted the reigning Olympic champion Li against reigning world champion Ding, with the latter holding a 13-10 career head-to-head advantage at world-level events.
And it was Ding who got her Olympic revenge, recovering from a 3-2 deficit to snatch the last two games 11-7, 11-7 and claim her first Olympic singles gold medal.
Source: Kyodo News