Despite her age, she willed her body to take the punishment of rigorous training so that she could compete at her home Olympics and on Saturday, 33-year-old Zhang Ning was rewarded with a gold medal.
The gold also meant that China have taken two out two gold medals that has been offered thus far with the promise of plenty more to come as they have also qualified for the men’s doubles final later today and the men’s singles final on Sunday.
Whether China also qualify for the mixed doubles final will be known later today.
Favourite and World No 1 Xie Xingfang took silver while Indonesia’s Maria Kristin Yulianti prevented an all-China sweep when she beat Lu Lan to take the bronze.
In the men’s doubles, Korea’s Lee Jae Jin-Hwang Jiman put the disappointment of their semi-final defeat behind them to claim the bronze, bettering Denmark’s Lars Passke-Jonas Rasmussen, 13-21, 21-18, 21-17.
Zhang Ning’s 21-12, 10-21, 21-18 victory also meant that she successfully defended her title from four years ago in Athens but more fittingly is a tribute to her long involvement in the sport.
She made her debut for China in 1992 and has soldiered on faithfully and on Saturday, she used all her experience and perseverance to nail her second Olympic gold medal.
“Two years ago, I wasn’t even sure of competing in these (Beijing 2008) Olympics. But the opportunity and privilege to play in the Olympics at home is too great to miss, hence my decision to play,” said Zhang Ning.
“It has taken a lot of hard work and pain to prepare for these Games and I’m happy with all the support and guidance showed to me by my coaches.
“Even when I won the gold medal in Athens, I was already 29 years old. Furthermore the last three months have been hard as my knee was swollen but my coaches always gave me words pf encouragement and that spurred me on.
“The victory today didn’t come easy but it is worth it.”
China was spoilt for choice in the women’s singles with four players eligible for the three spots in the Games. Besides the trio, 2007 World Championships gold medallist Zhu Lin was also in the running for a place in the team but was surprisingly left out of the team.
Maria, who prevented an all China sweep, dedicated her bronze medal to the people of Indonesia who will be celebrating their Independence Day on Sunday.
She also hoped her win will signal the start of a brighter future for Indonesian women players. The last Indonesian women’s player to win a medal in the Olympics was Susi Susanti who won the gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
“The win today proves that Indonesian players can also perform at the highest level,” said Maria who beat Lu Lan in three games 11-21, 21-13, 21-15.
“What is lacking is probably the exposure to tournaments. As such, I hope the win today will see a new start for Indonesia in the women’s events.”