AT THE 2012 Olympic Games in London, Hong Kong won a medal – a bronze in cycling. We almost won an unprecedented second medal: our men’s table tennis team lost the bronze medal match to Germany. It would also have been only our second-ever medal in table tennis, and fourth in any sport. A couple of hours later, the mainland Chinese team won gold – its twenty-fourth in Olympic table tennis and fourth in London alone.
When Hong Kong plays table tennis, when we do anything, it seems, we do so in the shadow of mainland Chinese paddles. And it’s not just us: every team that competes in table tennis at the Olympics is playing for silver. Since 1996, China has won all but one of the twenty gold medals awarded, and from South Korea and Taiwan to Germany and Denmark, no team has beaten any Chinese team or doubles pairing since 1988, when table tennis became an Olympic sport. Hong Kong table tennis players know this too well: they have not once, in fourteen attempts, ever beaten their mainland Chinese compatriots at the Olympics.
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