China wins another gold in Olympic table tennis
LONDON (AP) - China won another gold medal in a sport it dominates like no other, taking the women's team table tennis title Tuesday with a 3-0 victory against Japan.
Despite the loss, Japan won the silver for its first Olympic medal in table tennis, which entered the games in 1988.
China has won three gold medals in table tennis at the London Games, along with two silvers. It could complete the gold sweep in the team events by winning the men's final on Wednesday against South Korea.
With three Chinese-born players, the Singapore women took the bronze medal, defeating South Korea 3-0.
"The Chinese team is too strong,'' said Ai Fukuhara, Japan's most famous table tennis player.
Table tennis - the Chinese call it pingpong - is China's national pastime, and the country has now won 23 of 27 gold medals since '88, and is almost certain to make it 24 of 28.
After their victory, the Chinese team of Li Xiaoxia, Ding Ning and Guo Yue were ready for some sightseeing.
"I arrived in London more than 10 days ago, but I have not been to any famous places like Big Ben,'' Li said.
Coach Shi Zhihao said: "After the Olympics, they can do whatever they want.''
The Chinese women are even more overwhelming than the nation's men. Only three women's teams in the Olympics played without China-born players, or players with roots in China - North Korea, Japan and Egypt.
Li, Ding and Guo represent the new generation, all 24 or younger and the latest in a long line of famous female players. Li, who also won gold in singles, is on course to match the record of several national icons.
Zhang Yining won four gold medals in the last two Olympics. Wang Nan won her four golds in three Olympics - 2000, 2004 and 2008. And Deng Yaping started the string with four in 1992 and 1996, and went on to be one of the faces of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
If anyone can challenge China's women at the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, it may be Japan.
Left-handed Kasumi Ishikawa is only 19, and Fukuhara is 23 and already in her third Olympics. The veteran is Sakaya Hirano, who's 27 and in her second Olympics. Japan's women defeated China in the final of the 2010 world junior championship, a team led by Ishikawa.
In London, the silver was like gold for Japan - and the women treated it that way, laughing, smiling and ready to celebrate. "I need to buy some souvenirs before I go home,'' Fukuhara said.
She is from the area in northern Japan that was devastated last year by the earthquake and tsunami.
"I promised the children of the affected-area I would come back with a medal from the London Olympics,'' Fukuhara said. "I am very pleased and happy to go back to the area and show it to the children.''
They'll be happy with silver, too.
Follow Stephen Wade at http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP.