Kong Linghui broke into the national team aged just 16 – a phenomenal achievement considering the strength in depth that China has in its national sport. Unlike many of his teammates, Kong played like a European with a shakehand grip.
Kong made his Olympic debut at the 1996 Atlanta Games. He and his partner Guoliang won gold in the men’s doubles. Four years later, the doubles pair had to settle for silver in Sydney. But Kong stormed into the men’s singles final where he faced table tennis legend Jan-Ove Waldner.
In the final, Kong promptly won the first two sets. But the veteran Waldner fought back to level the match. In the crucial fifth set, Kong held his nerve to win the game and claim gold. In many ways this moment signalled the passing of the torch from the old master Waldner to the new master Kong.
Kong is considered one of the all time greats of table tennis. He is currently the coach of China’s national women’s team.