Table Tennis

Yang Wei
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Who is China’s greatest Olympian?

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China largely didn’t compete at the Olympics before 1980, but it didn’t take long to become a medal power. The Chinese finished second to the U.S. in total medals at the last three Summer Games and had the most golds in Beijing in 2008. China has been consistent at recent Winter Games, earning an average of 10 medals over the last two decades and building enough of a reputation to earn hosting rights in 2022. Here are five of the nation’s greatest Olympians …

Fu Mingxia
Diving
Four Olympic gold medals

A world champion at age 12. An Olympic champion at age 13. Fu was the dominant female diver of the 1990s, sweeping the springboard and platform at the 1996 Atlanta Games and winning one more of each between 1992 and 2000. China has become the dominant diving nation, though still with half the total Olympic medals of the U.S. in the sport. The Chinese boast other legends, such as Guo Jingjing, Chen Ruolin and Xiong Ni, but none combined the versatility and length of dominance quite like Fu. She retired for the first time at age 18, believing she was too old for the sport, and again after her last Olympics at 22.

Lin Dan
Badminton
Two Olympic gold medals

China owns twice as many medals as any other nation in badminton, which debuted at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Ten badminton players share the record of two gold medals. Nine of them are Chinese. Two of them earned two individual golds — Lin and Zhang Ning. The tiebreaker goes to Lin for his five individual world titles to Zhang’s one. “Super Dan,” who competed at the last four Olympics, won the sport’s Super Grand Slam, capturing its nine major titles. Lin’s fame: In 2015, he was the second athlete on Forbes China‘s most popular celebrities list behind tennis player Li Na. He had his own wax figure at Madame Tussauds in Shanghai. Lin’s outbursts on and off the court led to some calling him the John McEnroe of badminton.

Wang Meng
Short Track Speed Skating
Four Olympic gold medals

Also known for volatility. Wang is the lone Winter Olympian on this list and owns the national records for Winter Games medals (six) and golds (four). Wang competed in all four short track events at both the 2006 and 2010 Olympics, won half of them and earned medals in five of the six individual events. She would have been favored for more gold in 2014 but fractured an ankle three weeks before the Winter Games and never competed at another major championships. Wang was known for her unbeatable sprint speed and off-ice incidents. She was once suspended 13 months after reportedly, drunkenly punching a team manager who had chided her for breaking curfew.

Deng Yaping
Table Tennis
Four Olympic gold medals

Nowhere is China’s all-time Olympic dominance more evident than table tennis. Chinese won 28 of 32 gold medals and nearly three times as many total medals as any other nation. Deng, 4 feet, 11 inches, 115 pounds and dubbed “The Ping Pong Queen,” swept singles and doubles gold medals in 1992 and 1996. She was ranked No. 1 in the world from 1990-97 after initially being left off the national team for being so short.

Yang Wei
Gymnastics
Three Olympic gold medals

China has plenty of gymnastics greats, including Li Ning and Li Xiaoshuang, but Yang is the only one to earn Olympic all-around and team golds. He was the nation’s best gymnast at three Olympics — 2000, 2004 and 2008 — and, at his last Olympics in Beijing, dominated the all-around to win by 2.6 points. It remains a modern-era record for an Olympic men’s or women’s all-around margin of victory.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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11-year-old table tennis player qualifies for Olympics

Hend Zaza Table Tennis
ITTF
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An 11-year-old Syrian table tennis player is set to become one of the youngest Olympians in history.

Hend Zaza, listed with a Jan. 1, 2009 birthdate by the International Table Tennis Federation, qualified for the Tokyo Games by winning the West Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in Jordan last week, according to the federation and Syria’s Olympic Committee.

Table tennis is one of the Olympic sports that does not have an age minimum.

Zaza is in line to become the fifth-youngest known Olympic competitor in history and the youngest since Romanian figure skater Beatrice Hustiu in 1968, according to Olympedia and the OlyMADMen. The youngest documented Olympic competitor was Greek gymnast Dimitrios Loundras at the first modern Games in Athens in 1896.

Zaza is younger than Sky Brown, the 11-year-old British skateboarder who took bronze at last summer’s world championships. Brown, expected to qualify for the British team, turns 12 two weeks before the Tokyo Opening Ceremony.

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MORE: U.S. Olympic table tennis team finalized

U.S. Olympic table tennis, sport climbing teams finalized

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The six-member U.S. Olympic table tennis team is complete following the Olympic Trials this past week.

Nikhil Kumar and Zhou Xin joined the already qualified Rio Olympian Kanak Jha on the men’s team. Wang Huijing and Liu Juan joined the already qualified Olympic veteran Lily Zhang on the women’s team, according to TeamUSA.org.

The U.S. has zero Olympic table tennis medals, though Zhang and Jha earned Youth Olympic bronze medals.

Kumar, 17, became the first American born in 2003 to qualify for an Olympics. He reached the second round of the 2019 Pan American Games, where Jha earned a bronze medal.

Wang, 39, is set to become the second-oldest female U.S. Olympic table tennis player since it was added to the program in 1988. Liu is a former Chinese national team player who became a U.S. citizen in 2016, according to TeamUSA.org.

Later Sunday, 16-year-old Colin Duffy rounded out the first U.S. Olympic sport climbing team by winning the Pan Am Championships in Los Angeles. Duffy, a youth world champion in the lead discipline, joined the already qualified Nathaniel Coleman, Kyra Condie and Brooke Raboutou.

MORE: Athletes qualified for 2020 U.S. Olympic team

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