Table tennis pals smile to gold and silver


Ian Chadband / AAP News 

It was a para table tennis final like no other. Lots of smiles, lots of fun and jokes, plenty of dazzling exhibition shots – and an Australian gold and silver medallist to savour at the end.

Yang Qian reckoned it had been an “exciting” Saturday, playing against her great friend Lei Li Na and earning a 12-10 16-14 7-11 11-9 victory which brought her the women’s singles classes 6-10 gold, to go with her Paralympic crown.

“I have a place to save all my medals and I’ll put this one in the same spot. It’s a special box,” explained the 26-year-old player, who made her name in China as a table tennis star despite having had her arm amputated following an accident when she was eight.

Having competed in two Paralympic Games for China, she relocated to Melbourne five years ago and represented Australia in Tokyo 2020, where she won gold in the women’s singles class 10 event.

Lei, another Paralympic champion who’s made a similar path from China to Australia, is one of her greatest friends and it looked that way as they played a match of remarkable skill played in even more remarkable good spirit.

“We spend a lot of time together. I treated it like a practice match. It is a little different playing against a teammate – but I can manage it,” smiled Lei.

Earlier, Yangzi Liu missed out on becoming the first Australian woman to win a Commonwealth Games table tennis singles medal.

Liu, Melbourne’s 20-year-old rising star, was beaten 7-11 9-11 12-10 11-4 11-6 11-9 by Singaporean favourite Jian Zeng in Saturday’s semi-final at the NEC.

Still, though, her hopes of making a slice of sporting history are not all lost as she’ll tackle the bronze medal match against India’s Sreeja Akula on Sunday’s penultimate day of action.

Australia has only won one table tennis singles medal at the Games, when William Henzell took silver in the men’s singles in Melbourne in 2006.

Top seed Tianwei Feng, the world No.16 who’d knocked out Australian veteran Jian Fang Lay in the previous round, ensured there would be an all-Singaporean final against Zeng.

There was further disappointment for the Australian challenge when Melbourne’s bright young men’s doubles partnership of Nicholas Lum and Finn Luu went down 3-2 (8-11 11-9 10-12 11-1 11-8) in their semi-final to India’s Sharath Achanta and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran.

It wasn’t a good day for Lum, who then teamed up with Jee Minhyung and lost 3-2 to Achanta and Sreeja Akula in the mixed doubles semi (11-9 11-8 9-11 12-14 11-7).



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