TOKYO (Reuters) -Olympic and world champion Ma Long celebrated exuberantly as he retained his men’s table tennis singles title at the Tokyo Games on Friday, beating compatriot Fan Zhendong 4-2.
The 32-year-old clinched his fourth gold medal at his third Olympics by winning 11-4 10-12 11-8 11-9 3-11 11-7.
Ma made a heart symbol with his arms as he became the first male table tennis player in Olympic history to retain his title.
“The match with Fan Zhendong is probably the only match in the world that I could play with no pressure,” Ma said, adding that the heart was meant for his son.
“We still have the team event. So I’m telling myself to control this joy so that I don’t let my guard down,” Ma told Reuters.
Ma, eyeing another gold in the men’s team event, said he hopes to maintain his level to lead Fan and Xu Xin to another victory.
“I have to keep my hunger for winning… I can play. I can persevere,” he said.
As they have at every Games since 2008, China provided all four singles finalists at Tokyo 2020, Chen Meng having beaten Sun Yingsha to take the women’s title on Thursday. No other country has ever won women’s singles gold.
In the men’s bronze medal match, Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov scraped home against Taiwan’s Lin Yun Ju, saving four match points in the sixth game before winning the deciding seventh.
The 32-year-old won 13-11 9-11 6-11 11-4 4-11 15-13 11-7, earning his fifth Olympic table tennis medal since 2008.
(Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Ken Ferris and John Stonestreet and Christian Radnedge)