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Ryu Seung Min clinches men's singles gold
Updated: 2004-08-24 08:43

Ryu Seung Min of South Korea beat Chinese Wang Hao 4-2 to clinch the men's singles gold in the table tennis tournament of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games in Athens Monday.

The scores for the match were 11-3, 9-11, 11-9,11-9, 13-11 and 11-9.

South Korea's Ryu Seung Min (R) celebrates with his coach Kim Taek Soo (L) after winning the men's singles table tennis gold medal match against China's Hao Wang at Athens 2004 Olympic Games, August 23, 2004. [Reuters]

Ryu denied the powerful Chinese a chance to repeat their feat in Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000, when they bagged all four table tennis golds in the Olympic table tennis tournaments.

The Chinese paddlers had grabbed three golds from women's doubles, men's doubles and women's singles earlier in Athens.

"Ryu played a superb match today and he overwhelmed Wang from the very beginning," said Liu Guoliang, coach of the Chinese men's team after the match.

"He played extremely fiercely while Wang appeared a bit conservative and slow," Liu added. "I think this was because he was playing under great pressure."

China's Wang Hao returns the ball to South Korea's Min Seung Ryu at men's singles final tennis match at Athens 2004 Olympic Games, August 23, 2004. [Reuters]

This was the first Olympic Games for the 21-year-old Wang, now ranked 4th in singles in the world, while the 3rd-ranked Ryu had participated in the Sydney Games.

The 22-year-old Ryu jumped onto his coach Kim Taek Soo and the two embraced in ecstasy. The match was quite close and Ryu conceded his first matchpoint at 10-9 in the fifth game to let Wang win 13-11. But the South Korean converted his second matchpoint in the sixth into victory.

Ryu had never defeated Wang before in their previous encounters.

This was the second men's singles gold for the South Koreans at the Olympic Games in 16 years. Yoo Nam-Kyu won the first in Seoul 1988 when table tennis had its Olympic debut.

South Korea, with a third title for women's doubles at Seoul 1988, is also the second largest winner of table tennis golds at the Olympic Games, only after China, which bagged 16 of the total 20 golds.

In a third-place decider played before the final, China's world No 1 Wang Liqin beat Swedish veteran Jan-Ove Waldner 4-1 to win a singles bronze.

Waldner, already 39, was the only European in the singles last four. He also won the only Olympic table tennis gold for Europe in men's singles at Barcelona 1992.

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