China close in on Olympic table tennis clean sweep
China moved within one step of a second successive clean sweep of Olympic table tennis golds when their women marched to victory over Japan's young team at the London Games on Tuesday.
Red-hot favourites China beat Japan 3-0, having not lost an individual match throughout the tournament.
The win was led by singles gold medalist Li Xiaoxia, who ground down Ai Fukuhara and then partnered Guo Yue to victory in the doubles, with Ding Ning having thrashed Kasumi Ishikawa in the second rubber.
Japan's silver was their first Olympic table tennis medal and, with 19-year-old Ishikawa and Fukuhara, 23, they are expected to challenge China's dominance in the coming years.
China's men are also strong favourites to take the fourth and final table tennis gold on offer when they play the team final against South Korea on Wednesday.
After sealing their victory, China's women's team players and coaches hugged and then bowed to a passionate crowd who waved scores of national flags.
"Their support gave me a lot of support today. Not only the Chinese here, but also the millions and billions in front of the TV who are following us," said a jubilant Ding Ning.
Despite the defeat, Japan were pleased with their runners-up prize and expected it to inspire more people back home to play.
"It's so heavy," Ishikawa said of the silver medal, through a translator. "I'm so, so happy, but China were too strong.
"My eye is on the next Olympic Games in Rio, where I'd like to be stronger and have more power to be able to beat the Chinese team," she said.
China now plan to celebrate their success as a team.
"I have been in London for more than 10 days but I haven't seen any of the famous places like Big Ben, so I hope tomorrow I can have a City tour but it will depend on whether our coach will agree with that," double gold winner Li laughed.
"They can do whatever they want," coach Shi Zhihao responded.
China dominate women's table tennis and have taken all seven Olympic singles titles since the sport was introduced in 1988, and all but one of the doubles or team events.
Singapore beat South Korea 3-0 earlier on Tuesday to grab the women's team bronze medal.