Games & medals
Rio de Janeiro 2016
MA Long biography
Ma Long is one of the greatest table tennis players ever to wield a paddle – perhaps the greatest. The stats back up his claim for top billing: during his career he has been ranked world number one for longer than any other male player – 64 months in total, including an unbroken 34 months from 2015.
He has been World Champion on three occasions, 2015, 2017 and 2019, and his victory in the singles at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games means he is the current World and Olympic champion. Adding the World Cup to that list of honours means he is also only the fifth ever table tennis player to win the ‘Grand Slam’, too. He has won every singles title available in the game, and once went on a streak of five successive ITTF Tournament wins. No wonder they call him “the Dictator”.
What makes the Anshan, Liaoning, native such an outstanding player? He has one of the most lethal forehands of all time, sending tricky looping shots over the table at every opportunity. But while he was reliant on that sole attack as a youngster, in recent years he has added an equally offensive backhand to his arsenal. A master of the chop block, he’s also a careful, thoughtful strategist, who has figured out the best way to beat all of his main rivals over the years.
The man they also call “the Dragon” – his given name “Long” means dragon – uses a DHS Hurricane 3 National bat, and plays right-handed with the shakehand grip. His recent dominance of the sport has made him a national hero in China, where table tennis is considered a national sport.
Winning in Tokyo will not be a foregone conclusion, however. Ma may hold all the main titles at the moment, but he has struggled with injuries and seen his ranking fluctuate over the last season. As ever, it is his countrymen pushing him to the limit, with Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin both leaping above him at times; Japan’s Harimoto Tomokazu is also a threat.
“To win a gold medal at the Olympic Games has long been my dream, ever since I started my career as a table tennis player,” he said after that famous Rio win. A repeat in Rio might just cement his status as the greatest ever.