Ding can even defeat Ding
Updated: 2012-08-01 08:08
By Wu Ying and Tang Zhe (China Daily)
Ding Ning of China will be trying to win her first Olympic gold on Wednesday. "I have been waiting for this for a very long time," the 22-year-old said. Sergei Grits / Associated Press
Table tennis star finally got best of toughest opponent - herself
It hasn't all been easy for Ding Ning.
As China's top seed in table tennis closes in on what's almost certain to be a gold medal, memories linger from a sad night in Moscow two years ago.
The Chinese women's team's dream of clinching its ninth consecutive world championship was crushed by Singapore that May.
Ding's surprise loss to Singapore rival Feng Tianwei in the first round was a huge blow to her confidence and shattered the rest of the team.
The pressure got the best of Ding, who began to question herself. She wasn't on the roster for the Asian Games or the World Cup.
"It is extremely difficult to come out of the shadow. Many cannot make it, or overcome it so quickly," Ding said.
"I gradually realized that my real opponent was myself. Losing can't beat me - it only causes me to try harder."
Last year, she came back strong. She won the singles and doubles titles at the World C-hampionships in Rotterdam and the World Team Cup in Singapore, climbing to No 1 in the world last November.
Shi Zhihao, the women's head coach, saw it all unfold.
"The 2011 world's women's table tennis belonged to Ding," Shi said.
Ding got the chance to reclaim her crown at the Dortmund championships. She avenged that Moscow defeat to Feng with a 3-1 victory in the first round of the final.
The Chinese team, in turn, lifted the Corbillon Cup again in Germany.
"Same competition, same opponent. Ding really stood up after she fell down, which, I believe, will make her more mature," Shi said.
Born in 1990, Ding first took up basektball. Her father was a speed-skater and her mother a pro basketball player for the Helongjiang provincial team.
Ding eventually opted for a smaller ball, and it changed her life forever.
Ding made her name at the age of 17 after winning her first national championship as a member of the Beijing team. She later joined the national team and emerged as the face of China's national sport.
Knowing she has a responsibility to carry on the glittering legacy of former world champions like Deng Yaping, Wang Nan and Zhang Yining, the 22-year-old believes setting goals is important.
"Setting goals plays an important role in my life," she said.
"You should have a major direction, a much bigger goal, but you should also set up some specific smaller goals in each and every period. Only if you accomplish all the smaller goals will you reach the big ones."
Winning a gold medal in London is, of course, a major goal.
"I have been waiting for this for a very long time. Ever since I was a child, I was dreaming about a world title and an Olympic title. This is my lifelong dream," Ding said during an interview after she captured her first singles title at the World Table Tennis Championships in Rotterdam last May.
Ding effortlessly won her Olympic debut match in 27 minutes, beating Romania's Daniela Dodean 4-0.
She then defeated Japan's Ai Fukuhara in the quarterfinals, 4-0, and then Feng 4-2 in the semis.
As the current world No 1 and the top seed in London, the 22-year-old Ding will strive for her first Olympic gold medal on Wednesday night.
"I feel some pressure because I know lots of people have great expectations for me. But I'm not scared by that," Ding said.
(China Daily 08/01/2012 page11)