• Kyodo


Japanese teenager Ai Fukuhara’s Olympic campaign ended in the singles competition after she was beaten 4-1 by fourth seed Kim Kyung Ah of South Korea on Wednesday as all of Japan’s table tennis players made exits from the Athens Games.

News photoAi Fukuhara reacts during her match against South Korea’s Kim Kyung Ah on Wednesday.

Fukuhara, at 15 the youngest woman to appear in the table tennis competition in Athens, saw her hopes of making the quarterfinals shattered after she was overpowered 11-8, 11-5, 7-11, 15-13, 11-6 in the fourth-round encounter.

Looking to avenge a defeat at the Greece Open at the end of January, Fukuhara, affectionately known as “Ai-chan,” battled bravely after going 2-0 down, but world No. 6 Kim held her nerve in a tense fourth game before going on to claim victory.

“My opponent mixed her game plan around and that is what separates the really strong players from the others,” said Fukuhara.

“Another one or two wins would have heightened the tension for me. It was nice to be able to play without that sort of pressure today but I still ended up going out,” she said.

Later in the fourth round, Aya Umemura crashed out with a 4-2 (14-12, 13-11, 8-11, 15-13, 9-11, 11-7) loss to sixth-seeded Li Jia Wei of Singapore, while Ai Fujinuma lost to Zhang Xueling of Singapore 4-2 (11-7, 11-8, 6-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9).

“I’m disappointed that I lost a number of deuce points. Everyone says playing in the Olympics is something special and now I think I still need to improve my game a lot,” said 13th-seed Umemura.

In the women’s doubles quarterfinals, Umemura and Fujinuma were eliminated by the top-seed Chinese pair of Guo Yue and Niu Jianfeng 11-3, 12-10, 9-11, 12-14, 11-4, 11-8.

Akira Kido and Toshio Tasaki rounded out Japan’s exits by falling to Slobodan Grujic and Aleksandar Karakasevic 11-9, 9-11, 11-9, 12-10 in the men’s doubles third round.

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