A 55-year-old Chinese-born table tennis player won a bronze medal at the European Games, representing Luxembourg and bagged a place at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
The veteran named Ni Xia Lian won 4-2 against another Chinese-born player, Yang Xiaoxin of Monaco, on Wednesday to secure her place in her fifth Olympic Games, The Associated Press reported.
If Ni does participate in next year’s Games, she will be the oldest table tennis player to play in the Olympics, a feat she could have achieved at the 2016 Rio Games had He Zhiwen, a China-born Spanish player with the nickname Juanito not competed at the 2016 Olympics.
However, Ni is still quite young to be the oldest player in Olympic history. That honour goes to Sweden’s Oscar Swahn who competed at the 1920 Olympic Games at the age of 72 in the “running deer” shooting event.
Lorna Johnstone of Great Britain was the oldest female athlete to compete in the competition at the age of 70 when she took part in the 1972 Berlin Games.
Ni though has had more success in other competitions too. The bronze medal in the European Games has come 36 years after she was a world champion for China in 1983.
Ni who moved to Luxembourg in the 1990s, runs a hotel with her husband. After a five-year break between 2002 and 2007, she set a record in 2017 for the longest table-tennis match at 1 hour 33 minutes.
Sporting success at such an age, especially in sports like table tennis is rare. Germany’s Timo Boll is an anomaly having been a European champion in men’s singles at the age of 38. But Ni’s latest feat perhaps tops that.