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Zhang brings up China's 100
August 22, 2004 21:10 IST
Zhang Yining overwhelmed North Korean Kim Hyang-mi in the women's table tennis final on Sunday to give China their 100th gold medal since joining Olympic competition in 1984.
Her 26-minute demolition of Kim left China one victory away from a clean sweep of all four gold medals for the third straight Olympics.
The 22-year-old top seed blasted her way past the 40th-ranked Kim 11-8, 11-7, 11-2, 11-2 to add the singles title to the doubles gold she won with Wang Nan on Friday.
"It's not easy to win a gold medal," said Zhang. "Winning exacts a high price physically and mentally. It was a mental battle with myself.
"I was worried if I thought too much about the gold it would be counter-productive."
Kim punctuated the squeak of sneakers on the rubber floor by grunting and muttering to herself constantly as the pressure of giving reclusive North Korea their first gold medal of the Athens Games began to tell.
Zhang, meanwhile, fed off the energy of the raucous Chinese support, cracking winners past a stunned Kim almost at will.
Soundly beaten, the 24-year-old Kim finally threw off her austere demeanour at the medals ceremony, laughing and sharing a joke with South Korean bronze medallist Kim Kyung-ah.
"I'm happy with the silver medal," said Kim Hyang-mi, the first North Korean to take a table tennis silver medal back to the isolated communist country.
"But I will have to train harder so I can win a gold medal in the future."
Defensive specialist Kim Kyung-ah chopped and sliced her way to a 9-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-5, 11-8 victory over Li Jiawei of Singapore in the bronze medal match.
The 27-year-old became the first South Korean woman to capture a table tennis singles medal after Hyun Jung-hwa took bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Wang Hao will attempt to give China another Olympic sweep when he takes on South Korea's Ryu Seung-min in the men's final on Monday.