Lausanne, August 17: Fresh from reading the Olympic oath on behalf of the Youth Olympic Games athletes, FAN Zhendong (CHN) has announced that winning Youth Olympic Games gold is not the 17 year old’s only goal.
The senior world number three stated today, on the first day of the table tennis event here in Wutaishan Gymnasium in Nanjing, China: “I am very happy and excited to be here at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing. It is very cool to be here. Nobody has ever become the Youth Olympic and Olympic Champion, so I want to do this! Gold in Nanjing and gold in Rio is my goal!
After becoming the youngest ever ITTF World Tour champion at 16 years old last year, as well as being part of the Chinese National team that claimed gold at the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Championships in Tokyo, Japan earlier this year, who would bet against him!
Before FAN pushes himself on the senior stage for his Rio goal, he first has to focus on Nanjing, which will be no easy task, with 32 of the world’s best under-18 players vying for gold in the men’s singles.
MURAMATSU Yuto (JPN), who is the only defensive player in the event, along with Brazil’s CALDERANO Hugo, who also has aspirations for Rio 2016 in his home country, will be FAN’s biggest threat for gold.
DOO Hoi Kem (HKG) goes into the women’s event as the number one seed and has her eye firmly set on the gold medal. Her biggest challenge to become the Youth Olympic Games champion will be from LIU Gaoyang (CHN), who will be spurred on by the large home crowd here in Nanjing.
The men’s and women’s singles event starts off with eight groups of four players playing a round robin event. The top two players from each group then play in a round of 16 knock out until the champions are crowned on Wednesday, 20 August 2014.
Once the singles event has concluded, all the focus will turn to the mixed teams event, which consists of one boy and one girl who have qualified for the singles event. Teams can be composed of players from different NOCs where only boy or girl qualified in singles. The mixed teams gold medal match will be played on Saturday 23 August 2014.
FAN Zhendong was not the only table tennis player involved in the opening ceremony last night. Current World and Olympic Champion ZHANG Jike had the honour of running with the Olympic Torch in the stadium and three times World Champion and Athlete’s Role Model here in Nanjing, WANG Liqin carried out the Olympic flag.
Youth Olympic Games athletes: Henri Christ BIENATIKI (CGO), Fatouma ALI SALAH (DJI), Brian AFANADOR (PUR), Adina DIACONU (ROU) and Soudes ALLASSANI (TOG) had the privilege of carrying in their national flag into the Olympic stadium.
Reflecting on this once in a lifetime experience, Brian AFANADOR (PUR) stated: “It was a very emotional moment for me to carry the flag at last night’s opening ceremony. I was really proud about it, definitely the most inspiring and significant moment for me. I screamed in joy when I found that I would be carrying the flag!” —- Photo by Remy Gros/ITTF