LI Fen and LI Jie booked their tickets for RioPhoto: Linda KARLSSON
2016 ITTF-European Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in Swedish city of Halmstad
The host nation’s LI Fen, Netherland’s LI Jie alongside another Swede matilda EKHOLM are the names who have qualified for the Women’s Singles event at the forthcoming Rio 2016 Olympic Games following the conclusion of play at the 2016 ITTF-European Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in Swedish city of Halmstad. LI Fen and LI jie concluded victoriously their run in the second tournament, whilst the third ticked EKHOLM gained against BILENKO as the winner of the match between the losers of the Red and the Blue final.
To clarify, in Halmstad Germany already had three men qualified (OVTCHAROV, BOLL, STEGER) and three women (HAN Ying, SOLJA, SHAN Xiaona). At the Olympic Games only two players per NOC can play the singles event. If all three players of one NOC qualify, only two can play and that created the place for one more viza that went to Matilda.
In the final match in the Red Group, LI Jie beat Matilda EKHOLM (5-11, 11-5, 11-13, 11-5, 11-8, 4-11, 15-13).
"Matilda played so well so incredibly well", said LI Jie. "Usually I beat her but today was so different, I did not know whether to attack or defend; I remember in the seventh game, it was 12-12 and I attacked after my service and won the point but still she came back and levelled the score."
In the first morning’s match LI Jie did not have very comfortable start against Anamaria ERDELJI of Serbia. She was two games to nil in reverse, before she recovered to win in tight seventh game.
“I am very tired. I could not feel my legs, but I told to myself I had to play. I can not give up,” said LI.” I did not start well, but the change of tactics and few attacks brought the changes. In addition, the pressure is working in my favor. I know I will play in Rio, and I do not have to cope with such kind of fear. On the other side, my adversaries are playing under extremely lot of stress.”
In the final of the Blue Group, European Champions from 2013, LI Fen beat Tetyana BILENKO (11-5, 12-10, 11-9, 11-6).
"I am so pleased that I have qualified for Rio, it's my very first Olympic Games. It is even more special because I qualified here in Halmstad, here on home soil in Sweden. I am very grateful to everyone who helped me, the coaches, the officials and the crowd here in the Halmstad Arena", added Li Fen.
After shaky start, LI played very well.
"Against LI Qian I was so tired and I must say that Li Qian played well; she played incredibly well", explained Li Fen. "Today I knew it was my last chance, I could not let the opportunity slip by; I really concentrated and gave my best, technically why I won, I've no idea!"
LI Fen of Sweden beat Viktoria PAVLOVICH in match with few ups and downs.
“Tactically, I was ready and I started well. I had 3:0 very fast and then I lost my focus. It was just too easy. I lost two next games and at the point where PAVLOVICH was 9:3 in the lead I felt I might lose the match. Then I get my focus again and started to build my game point by point back,” said LI Fen.
In first round of the day, Matilda EKHOLM of Sweden was also stretched to full seven games before she beat Georgina POTA of Hungary.
“I had to put the first ball on the table. I had to attack from the very first moment. That is why, at some points, I was furious on myself. I knew I can not afford to miss first ball,” explained EKHOLM.
Tetyana BILENKO overcame Katarzyna GRZYBOWSKA of Poland to reach the final of the Blue group.
“Usually, GRZYBOWSKA did not play good against the players with the defensive style, but today it was different. Also, I think I gave her some advantage too. I was playing to quick on some points and forced myself into the mistakes. When I slowed down, I regained the control; with extra spin, I made Katarzyna makes mistakes.”
The eight players who won their tickets to Rio from the first tournament are: HAN Ying, SHAN Xiaona and Petrissa SOLJA of Germany, HU Melek of Turkey, YU Fu of Portugal, LI Qian of Poland, Polina MIKHAILOVA of Russia and LIU jia of Austria.