Kong Linghui
table tennis champion at both the Atlanta Olympic Games and Sydney Olympic Games (1) 11-05-2004 17:06

In the men鈥檚 singles at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996, Kong Linghui lost to Kim Taek Gu from the Republic of Korea, thus failing to become one of the eight top competitors. In the men鈥檚 doubles semifinals, Kong Linghui and Liu Guoliang encountered Yu Nam Gyu and Lee Taek Seong, also from the Republic of Korea. To prepare for this fierce competition, the Chinese team spent five hours discussing tactics and, in the end, Kong Linghui and Liu Guoliang eliminated their rivals 3:1.

In the finals, they met another Chinese pair, Wang Tao and L眉 Lin, who had carried off the men鈥檚 doubles title at the previous Olympics. In the third set, Kong Linghui and Liu Guoliang trailed by 8:11 but then Kong Linghui hit a powerful smash. Liu Guoliang later referred to this as the turning point in their games. They had shared the same dormitory for 8 years and now they had won an Olympic gold medal together. Four years later, at the Sydney Olympic Games, Kong Linghui confronted Jan-Ove Waldner in the men鈥檚 singles finals.

The Chinese table tennis team had already obtained three gold medals but now the men鈥檚 singles was to be the hard nut to crack for the Chinese team. Kong Linghui began by winning two sets consequtively, but then Jan-Ove Waldner leveled the score at two-all. Before the deciding set began, the Chinese coach, Cai Zhenhua, told Kong Linghui to receive Jan-Ove Waldner鈥檚 serves with courage.

If he received the serve using a safe approach, the opponent would mount a more reckless attack. He had to hit the ball to the point where Jan-Ove Waldner would find it the most difficult to react. In the deciding set, Kong Linghui had the lead all the way and when the score reached 20:13, Jan-Ove Waldner lost confidence and hit the ball outside. Thus the Chinese team won all the possible gold medals in the table tennis events at the Sydney Olympic Games. Kong Linghui is now 29 and he still plays table tennis.

In 2002, 鈥淣ew Sports鈥 magazine presented a collection of Kong Linghui鈥檚 photos to which he wrote a preface entitled 鈥淲hen We Were Young鈥, in which it was clear he was trying to keep the brilliant years of his youth printed on his memory. By this time 29-year-old Kong Linghui was well aware that he was in the final stages of his youth.

This Porsche Cayenne is as dazzling and stirring as his name. All this came from the time of his youth. Twenty-three years ago when six-year-old Kong Linghui began to play table tennis, he could not imagine that he would be this successful in his sports career.

Kong Linghui was born in Harbin City, Heilongjiang Province on October 18, 1975. His father Kong Xiangzhi was a table tennis coach in Harbin, so Kong Linghui grew up in and was attracted by this sport.

Kong Xiangzhi (Kong Linghui鈥檚 father):

He spent over two years in Heilongjiang Provincial Sports School鈥檚 kindergarten. He watched me training in my spare time and in the evening. When he was a little boy he liked to move about a lot. Many people said, 鈥淵our son is too naughty.鈥 He was rarely quiet anywhere. But when he was in the table tennis hall, he would sit quietly while watching games. He would just move his head to the left and right as he watched. He could sit motionlessly like that for two hours. He was deeply impressed by table tennis when he was a little boy. After he entered the top class of the No. 2 Kindergarten of the Provincial Government, he began to play table tennis.

The No. 2 Kindergarten of Heilongjiang Provincial Government was the best one in the province. The combined monthly salaries of Kong Linghui鈥檚 parents came to just 76 yuan but they spent 43 yuan, more than half of their salaries, on their boy鈥檚 kindergarten education.

Standing at the centre is Shang Ce who used to be Kong Linghui鈥檚 kindergarten teacher. She is surprisingly young.

Shang Ce (Kong Linghui鈥檚 kindergarten teacher):

Kong Linghui was selected but at first he didn鈥檛 want to learn. He was afraid that the older kids would play better than he. The teachers often encouraged him to become a world champion and win honour for the country. They often gave him this kind of patriotic education. When the other kids were in high spirits, he was also enthusiastic.

In 1982, when Kong Linghui graduated from the No. 2 Kindergarten of the Provincial Government, his teacher wrote the following remarks: 鈥淜ong Linghui loves to play table tennis. He is lively and quick to react. He can carry out the addition and subtraction of numbers less than 10.鈥 This is a photo of Kong Linghui taken together with Shang Ce, his kindergarten teacher.

Kong Xiangzhi (Kong Linghui鈥檚 father):

When the national youth team was formed, the sport of table tennis in China was experiencing a crisis. When Xu Yinsheng, head of the national sports commission, stressed at every meeting that the wolf was coming, I felt that China鈥檚 grip-fast attack was facing a serious menace. The Chinese men鈥檚 table tennis team was experiencing great difficulties. When the national youth team was formed, it was actually just a group of little boys and girls who were organized. They were only 12 or 13 years old, including Kong Linghui and Liu Guoliang. Most members of the youth team were just 12 or 13 years old. Some others were 15 or 16 years old. The team鈥檚 task was to win world championship titles.

He was only 12 and he would be far away from home. He was our only son. We could hardly bear to let him leave home. But we thought it was probably an opportunity. If we didn鈥檛 seize the opportunity and if we let him go two years later, he would probably never catch up. So we decided to let this 12-year-old boy leave home and begin his table tennis career.

Yin Xiao is a coach of key importance in Kong Linghui鈥檚 sports career. He witnessed both the boy鈥檚 success and failure.

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