Ma Long wins second Olympics singles gold, beats Fan Zhendong in final

Long, seeded second, defended his Rio 2016 Olympic title by overcoming top seed Fan Zhendong in an all-Chinese affair in the singles final on Friday.

China's Ma Long became the first man to win two table tennis Olympic golds in Friday's final.   -  Getty Images

Ma Long lived up to his reputation as the greatest paddler in modern era by emerging as the first male to win two singles gold medals at the Olympics. Long, seeded second, defended his Rio 2016 Olympic title by overcoming top seed Fan Zhendong in an all-Chinese final at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Friday evening.

The final lived up to its billing, especially after both the Chinese favourites had overcome Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Lin Yun Ju of Chinese Taipei in tense semifinal encounters that went down the wire.

Even though Ma Long sealed the title 4-2, the hour-long encounter saw both the paddlers being involved in some breathtaking rallies. He won 11-4, 10-12, 11-8, 11-9, 3-11, 11-7.

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It was Ma Long’s experience and expertise eventually that meant the World No. 1 Fan will have to wait for another three years to get hold of the yellow metal.

Ma Long, nicknamed Dragon, meanwhile raised his game when it mattered the most. Two years ago, the winner of all the major tournaments on the international table tennis calendar and the three-times defending World Champion, a knee injury was feared to have drawn curtains on his glittering career.

But the Dragon spewed venom to end the tournament on a historic note. Ever since table tennis’ inclusion in Olympics in 1988, each of the eight singles gold medals had been earned by different paddlers. Ma Long bucked the trend, defending his title in style.

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Earlier in the evening, Ovtcharov repeated his 2012 feat in London by bagging the bronze medal. The German superstar saved four match points in the sixth game against promising southpaw Lin, some cheer after going down in an epic battle against the eventual champion in the semifinal.

In the women’s singles on Thursday, China’s Chen Meng overcame Sun Yingsha in an all-Chinese battle to win gold on her Olympic debut. Mima Ito of Japan won bronze.

After a day’s break, table tennis action will resume on Sunday with the men’s and women’s championship.

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