Vladimir Samsonov Reach Olympic Semifinal

Rio de Janiero, Aug 10, 2016: Vladimir Samsonov Reach Olympic Semifinal, Twenty years after his first quarterfinals appearance at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, Vladimir SAMSONOV (BLR) is through to the semifinals of an Olympic Games for the first time.

The table tennis legend faced his Russian League club teammate, and good friend Dimitrij OVTCHAROV (GER) in an epic quarterfinal duel to fight for a spot in the Men’s Singles semifinals.

After losing the first game, SAMSONOV suffered a rib injury whilst leading 7-5 in the second, forcing him to take an injury time out off court to receive urgent treatment.

After the short medical break, the 40-year-old persevered on to take the game 11-7 and went the full distance to win 19-17 in the third game, and eventually knocked out the number three seed 4-2 (8-11, 11-7, 19-17, 11-2, 14-12) despite being in visible pain due to his injury.

“We have known each other for so long, we are in the same club, we are friends and it’s not easy playing an injured friend, he struggled,” commented the Belarussian after the spectacular match.

“It was a really strange match after my injury, I couldn’t play hard forehand topspin, so I had to change something, tactically I had to play a bit slower, and more passively.”

“I have problems with my ribs several times for the past six years. I really hope it’s not bad, I will have to go to the hospital now to see how badly injured I am.” shared SAMSONOV who will now play defending champion ZHANG Jike (CHN) in his first Olympic semifinals.

ZHANG, who completed his table tennis golden grand slam in a record 445 days, had knocked out 2010 Youth Olympic Games champion Koki NIWA (JPN) to set up his semifinals encounter with SAMSONOV who he beat 4-3 at London 2012 en route to gold.

ZHANG had been deeply troubled by back and shoulder injuries over the past 2 years, and has lost several high profile matches to lower ranked players around the world. But this time in Rio, the 28-year-old was back in form to prove himself.

Losing his first game to NIWA, the two-time World Champion recovered to dominate the match over the young Japanese, winning 4-1 (5-11, 11-4, 11-7, 11-7, 11-4).

Eight-time Japanese National Champion Jun MIZUTANI became the first ever Japanese Men’s Singles semifinalist by defeating Marcos FREITAS (POR) 11-4, 9-11, 11-3, 11-8, 10-12, 11-2.

The battle for the last semifinals ticket was between the 2014 ITTF Male Table Tennis Star Quadri ARUNA (NGR), and the 2015 award winner MA Long (CHN). It was the latter who prevailed in Rio, spoiling ARUNA’s 28th birthday which was today.

The world number one ended surprise semifinalist Quadri ARUNA’s amazing tournament at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, dominating 4-0 (11-4, 11-2, 11-6, 11-7) to secure the last ticket in the Men’s Singles semifinals.

Despite losing to the reigning World Champion MA, ARUNA has had the best Olympic tournament of his career, upsetting CHUANG Chih-Yuan (TPE) and Timo BOLL (GER) to become the first African to make an Olympic Games quarterfinal.

The men now get a day off to rest, whilst the Women’s Singles semifinals, and bronze and gold medal matches take place. —- ITTF/Credit: Remy Gros

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