LONDON – Japan came up short in its quest for gold with a 3-0 defeat to defending Olympic champion China in the women’s table tennis team final at the London Games on Tuesday.
The Japanese team of Ai Fukuhara, Kasumi Ishikawa and Sayaka Hirano came into the final in good form having won their previous three matchups 3-0 against the United States, Germany and Singapore en route to securing the country’s first Olympic medal in the sport on Sunday.
But Fukuhara, the face of Japanese table tennis, was outplayed in going down 11-6, 9-11, 11-2, 11-5 to Li Xiaoxia, the world No. 3 in the women’s singles ranking, and Japan was never able to recover.
Nineteen-year-old Ishikawa, making her Olympic debut, was no match for Ding Ning, getting swept 11-4, 12-10, 11-4 before the doubles between Ishikawa and Hirano and Li and Guo Yue.
That match also proved to be a mainly one-sided affair as the Chinese pair claimed an 11-6, 11-3, 9-11, 11-5 win to seal the match in front of a lively crowd at the ExCeL table tennis arena.
Despite the disappointment of defeat, the Japanese team was naturally delighted with their achievement.
“It had not yet sunk in that we had won a medal but I realized it wasn’t a dream when it was put around my neck on the podium,” said the 23-year-old Fukuhara.
“I was so happy that we were able to play against the Olympic champion on this big stage. I played the best I could in the hope that we could stay on the court as long as possible.”
Ishikawa added, “The Chinese team really drove home how strong they are today but I am going to make my best efforts and hopefully we can gradually close the gap on them.”
Hirano said the medal was the fruit of the hard work the Japanese team has put in since the Beijing Olympics.
“We have built up a good team and have played really well and have had a great result (by winning silver). I’m delighted for myself and grateful to my teammates.”
Singapore swept South Korea in three straight matches to win the bronze medal earlier in the day.