China's women paddlers eye 'highest honour' team gold

The Chinese women's table tennis trio of Chen Meng, Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu beat Austria's Liu Jia, Liu Yuan and Sofia Polcanova 3-0 in the round of 16 team event yesterday to advance to the quarter-finals.

Their last-eight opponents will be Singapore or France, who meet this morning.

China's Sun, who won a silver medal in the women's singles, partnered Wang to crush the Lius 11-4, 11-6, 11-4 in the doubles match, with the Austrians unable to win a single game.

"I was very excited, it was emotional. Overall I think we were pretty good today," said Wang.

World No. 1 and newly minted Olympic singles champion Chen then cruised past Polcanova 3-0 (11-3, 11-3 , 11-6), followed by another individual match where Wang shut down her opponent Liu Yuan by the same score.

The Chinese team initially included the 2016 Olympics team champion Liu Shiwen, who partnered Xu Xin in the mixed doubles final, where they lost to Japan earlier last week.

But she withdrew yesterday, and was replaced by world No. 4 Wang.

"Liu Shiwen suffered an injury after the mixed doubles," China's coach Li Sun told Reuters. The International Table Tennis Federation said it was a recurring elbow injury.

China have been undefeated in the team events, both for women and men, since it was introduced in 2008.

Singles champion Chen said she had switched her focus to the final event in the sport immediately after the singles was over.

"There were some ups and downs in the atmosphere, with the gold medal win in the singles and a loss in the mixed doubles. I think another gold medal for the team event is important. It would be the highest honour, really important," said Li.

Also securing a spot in the quarter-finals were the Japanese women's team of Kasumi Ishikawa, Miu Hirano and Mima Ito, who beat Hungary's Maria Fazekas, Szandra Pergel and Dora Madarasz 3-0.

Ito, who had said that she only got around three hours of shut-eye between the mixed doubles and singles events, said she finally had enough sleep.

"I'm happy just to be able to move at the table again. I really want to cherish this happiness," she said. - REUTERS