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Li collects New Zealand's first table tennis gold

04 August 2002

Li Chunli became the darling of the centre stage as she collected New Zealand's first table tennis gold at the Manchester Games.

Women's table tennis event

Gold won at Table Tennis Centre

Chunli threw her arms in the air and was draped in her national flag as her smile cut through the near capacity audience at the end of a pulsating women's singles final.

The Chinese-born 40-year-old made up for her disappointment in the Mixed Doubles final by beating one of the players who ousted her in that match, No 1 seed and triple Commonwealth Championship holder (women's singles and mixed and women's doubles), Li Jia Wei of Singapore 11-6, 11-9, 5-11, 11-5, 11-8.

Chunli made Jia Wei move round the court as she took the first two games by getting the better of some brilliant counter-attacking rallies.

Then Jia Wei, 20 years Chunli's junior, started to display the form that took her to singles titles in the 2000 and 2001 Commonwealth Championships and the 1999 and 2001 South East Asian Games by taking the third with some strong hitting.

But that was only a breather for the woman who spent three years in the Chinese team and was twice part of a feared Chinese mixed doubles championship duo. She resumed the determined play that had won the hearts of spectators during 10 days of unforgettable table tennis and forced Jia Wei off the table several times as she came back 11-5, 11-8.

Chunli commented: "I think it's because I like table tennis so much and also I enjoy playing. I'm better than I was last year. I think I have practiced harder, practicing against men in Japan and that's really helped me."

"I thought I could be the champion."

Li Jia Wei added: "Obviously I am very disappointed because I only got the silver but Li Chunli is a very good player. I put in my best and I know my chances will come."

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