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Birthday girl Feng eyes perfect present in Tokyo

China Daily | Updated: 2021-08-04 09:43
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Feng Shanshan in action in Kawagoe, Saitama, Japan, Aug 4, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Chinese star eyes second Olympic medal as women's tournament tees off

China's Feng Shanshan has described her bronze medal from Rio 2016 as the "most important "achievement of her illustrious career as she looks to put the icing on the cake in what could be her Olympic swansong at Tokyo 2020.

The 10-time LPGA Tour winner and former world No 1 will tee up alongside compatriot Lin Xiyu when the women's golf competition tees off on Wednesday at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

Defending champion Park In-bee of South Korea, New Zealand's Lydia Ko, the silver medalist in Rio, and current world No 1 Nelly Korda of the United States start as favorites for podium finishes.

A medal in Tokyo would also be the perfect way to celebrate Feng's birthday as she turns 32 on Thursday.

With China an Olympic powerhouse, Feng said making the podium in Rio ranks as her career highlight, and she keeps her bronze medal safe at her home in Guangzhou.

"Out of all of my achievements, I would say a medal at the Olympics is very special, even though I have been a major winner," said Feng.

"Like think about it, we have five majors every year, so in four years we have 20 chances to win a major. So I would say it's much harder to get a medal at the Olympics. It was like the most important or memorable moment of my career."

Feng recently hinted she is considering retirement, just nine years after her first LPGA Tour title and maiden major victory at the 2012 KPMG Women's PGA Championship.

However, with three top-five finishes from eight starts this season, Feng is quietly confident of contending at Kasumigaseki's East course.

"I'm not as nervous as last time. I was really nervous on that first tee (in Rio) and it was like I didn't remember anything. I realized I was already walking down the fairway on the first hole, so I didn't remember about the tee shot," said Feng.

"I wouldn't say I'm in the best shape of my career, but I was very happy to come back this year and start at a major, get a top-three finish and a couple more top-fives after that. So I'm very confident about my game.

"I just really want to enjoy and relax the whole day and the whole week. I'm pretty sure this is my last Olympics. I don't think I will play in another Games, so I better enjoy it."

Feng will play the opening two rounds alongside Park and Ko on Wednesday morning. Korda, world No 2 Ko Jin-young of South Korea and world No 11 Nasa Hataoka of host Japan will also attract plenty of attention in another of the marquee groups.

"We played together at the US Open this year and that was our first time in the same group in a tournament after Rio. It was very fun, I really enjoyed it and I believe that in the first round, all three of us are going to enjoy our time. Hopefully all of us can bring our 'A' games," said Feng.

Her compatriot Lin hopes to better her tied-38th finish in Rio by putting on a strong showing in Tokyo.

"I was very ready last year, but unfortunately COVID happened, but I think there's one thing I got out of COVID is when I was locked down in Orlando-I had a lot of free time to think about my whole career, kind of look back a little bit and I had some serious talks with myself. I definitely had my mind more clear," said Lin, who sank a hole-in-one in Rio.

"I'm very glad I ended up making the team, because in 2017 I lost my tour card. It's probably the biggest event ever in my career."

Rio gold medalist Park admitted the pressure she was under in South Korea prior to winning at the 2016 Olympics was the worst she had ever encountered and it almost crushed her-remarkable for a seven-time major winner.

More relaxed this year, she is aiming for nothing less than a second gold to sit in the trophy cabinet her father built in her house.

"It's a little bit different to 2016," she said about the lack of spectators this week. "But the same result would be nice, right?"

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