SPORTS

China delivers sweep of all 4 gold medals in table tennis at London Olympics

08/08/2012 12:40 EDT | Updated 10/08/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - China completed a sweep of all four golds in table tennis at the London Olympics with a victory 3-0 Wednesday over South Korea in the men's team final.

The sweep was expected, and anything less could have prompted shake-ups in the government bureaucracy that oversees the sport. Table tennis is a source of national pride in China with some jokingly calling it "China ball."

China has won an amazing 24 of 28 gold medals since the sport entered the Olympic schedule in 1988. The Chinese won two gold and two silvers this time in singles. They may have taken the bronze medals too if nations had not been limited to two singles players instead of three.

China also took the women's team gold on Tuesday.

Estimates suggest 500 million Chinese watched the men's final on TV.

Many viewed the China's semifinal against Germany as the "real" final, when the Chinese won 3-1 against a stubborn team led by Timo Boll, the top-ranked non-Chinese player in the game.

China's Ma Long defeated Ryu Seung-min, the 2004 Olympic singles champion, in the first match of the best-of-five series, which combines singles and doubles. That set the stage for China's sweep, with gold medallist Zhang Jike beating Joo Sae-hyuk, followed by the doubles victory.

Zhang, who struggled to beat Joo, turned to the pro-China crowd after the gold was sealed and raised his right fist in a salute, reminding them he'd delivered.

Germany defeated Hong Kong — a team composed of three players born in mainland China — 3-1 to take bronze on Wednesday.

Adham Sharara, the president of the International Table Tennis Federation, has encouraged China to share its expertise, afraid the world will grow bored of dominance by one country. He said they have been co-operating, also aware that one country's dominance could dull interest.

"It will change in the next four or five years," Sharara said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. "You will see other teams will win. Otherwise, of course, it's very disturbing to have the same — whether it's China or the U.S. — winning for too long."

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Follow Stephen Wade at http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP

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