Japan table tennis star Ito admits ‘gulf in class’ as China reign in Tokyo

Sports Tokyo 2020

Tokyo, Japan | AFP

China ensured men’s and women’s singles table tennis golds at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday, as beaten Japanese star Mima Ito conceded that there was “a gulf in class”.

The 20-year-old, who helped the host nation win their first-ever Olympic gold in the sport earlier this week, was soundly beaten by China’s Sun Yingsha.

Sun plays her fellow Chinese Chen Meng for women’s gold later Thursday, while the men’s final on Friday will also be an all-Chinese affair.

The second seed Sun overpowered a shell-shocked Ito, the third seed, 11-3, 11-9, 11-6, 11-4.

Ito said that “the biggest failure was losing the second game”, having led by six points at one stage.

“And how I started the third game was not good. What I was doing was not bad, but the results showed that we are not even close.

“There’s a gulf in class.”

Top seed Chen booked her finals place with a straightforward 11-6, 11-8, 11-7, 11-6 victory over injury-stricken Singaporean Yu Mengyu.

The 26th seed Yu, who has suffered long-standing back problems, needed a prolonged spell with the physio towards the end of her defeat.

Yu, who was reduced to tears afterwards, said: “China’s strength in singles is really beyond me.

“I tried to think of different solutions but my singles abilities and overall abilities were just not as good as Chen’s.”

China were pushed all the way in the men’s semi-finals before finally pulling through.

Reigning Olympic champion and second seed Ma Long belatedly saw off the determined Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany 4-3 over seven thrilling games.  

Ma meets compatriot Fan Zhendong for gold, but the top seed was also made to fight for it by Taiwan’s 19-year-old Lin Yun-ju, before emerging over seven similarly hard-fought games. 

China have won every women’s singles gold stretching back to table tennis’s Olympic debut in 1988 and arrived in Tokyo seeking their fourth straight clean-sweep.

But Ito and Jun Mizutani destroyed that ambition when they beat the Chinese pairing to win the mixed doubles title -- Japan’s first table tennis gold.

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