Name: Zhang Yining
Date: October 5, 1981
Education: Beijing Dongcheng District Sports School
Type of Business: Table Tennis Athlete
Main Achievements: Winning four gold medals, 2 in summer 2004 and 2 in summer 2008
Something interesting about this person: she started playing table tennis at the age of 5
Zhang Yining is one of the most famous table tennis athletes in the early 2000’s. Yining was born on October 5, 1981, in Beijing. She grew up in the district of Chongwen in the south of the city. When Zhang was five years old, she was introduced to table tennis by an uncle of hers. Later, in 1985 she enrolled in Beijing Dongcheng District Sports School. There, she learned the basics of table tennis.
At the tender age of 12 years old, she had a reputation in the city because of her skill, which was a big deal because, in China, there were about 4 million tournament quality players. Sticking out amongst such a large number of players was no easy feat. She started training full time in the sport and eventually made it into the Beijing team at the age of thirteen. The next year, in 1995, she became a member of the Chinese national team.
Her career started kicking off when she earned gold in the Malaysian Open held in 1998 in the singles and doubles category. Later in 1998, she earned gold and bronze in the Italian Open. She earned gold in the singles category and bronze in the doubles category. As a result, the Chinese team snagged the number one spot in the Asian Games. Later, in the year 2000, she won big at four championships. She was ranked number 1 in the Polish, Japanese and Swedish Open in the singles category. She earned silver in the World Table Tennis Championship.
Table Tennis though initially invented in the United Kingdom, has become a national sport in China. There have been three Chinese athletes that dominated table tennis from the early ’90s. The first one was Den Haiping ho beaten by Wang Nan, succeeding her during the years 1999 to 2002. Nan was succeeded by Zhang, who defeated her during the 2003 world championship.
However, despite defeating their rivalry in the singles category, Wang Nan and Zhang Yining have been teammates in the doubles category at international competitions. In the doubles category, two-member teams compete against each other. In the Paris World Championship in 2003, she was defeated by Wan in the singles category earning gold. However, together as a team, they won gold in the second category.
Her most significant victories took place during the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. She won four gold medals in total the first to in 2004 and the other two in 2008. She earned gold in the singles and the doubles category with her teammate Wang Nan during both Olympic games. She dedicated her win to her coach Li Sun who has been training her since she was 13 years old.
Over the years, Zhang Yining has collected many awards. Overall, since 1999 she has earned nine golds, two silvers, and four bronze medals in the Table Tennis World Cups. She was ranked number for six consecutive years in the International Table Tennis Federation from 2003 to 2009. She reigned as number 1 in the rankings of the International Table Tennis Federation until 2010. That year her ranking went down to number 2, then 4, and finally, her ranking was number 6.
She promised to return for the 2012 Olympics in London. However, in 2011, she formally called it quits. She went to study in the United States, majoring in physical education. Her reason for quitting was because she wanted to give new and upcoming players a more significant opportunity.
In 2018, she was to go to Papua New Guinea to train their National table tennis athletes. This was done as a part of the efforts of the International Table Tennis Federation. The president Shi Zhihao was seeking to promote the sport in Papua New Guinea. Zhang, who has retired for quite a few years now, was happy to be able to take part in the development of the career of future table tennis players.