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Li Jiao wins all-Dutch duel for Table Tennis gold

Li Jiao
Li Jiao won her second medal of the Baku 2015 Games. Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Veteran defeats Li Jie, while Turkey's Hu Melek claims bronze

Whichever way the final of the women's singles table tennis went, the Dutch would be the winners.

It's perhaps why Elena Timina decided to vacate her courtside coaching seat, preferring instead to watch Li Jiao's 4-0 victory over compatriot Li Jie from the stands with the rest of the table tennis enthusiasts.

"Proud?" Timina had said after Friday morning's semi-finals that earned both Dutch women a place in the final. "Proud is not even the right word. This is ridiculous."

Neither coach nor players had expected a double Dutch final, let alone see 42-year-old Li Jiao win the first European Games table tennis gold in the women's singles.

Both finalists were well aware that there could only be one winner, and one of them was going home with a silver.

"It was incredibly hard," said Li Jie. "We've trained with each other so often."

Li Jiao revealed that they had known each other for almost 16 years. "We're very close friends," she said. "But I knew I had to think about the match if I wanted to win. Now that it's over, we can be friends again."

Veteran Li Jiao also earned a place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. "It means a lot less anxiety and energy spent, knowing that I've qualified," she said.

Turkey's Hu Melek took bronze with a 4-1 win over Eva Odorova, the unseeded Slovakian who was hampered by a shoulder injury suffered in the semi-finals .

The best Table Tennis photos from Friday can be viewed here

 

 


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