Li Chunli a golden oldie

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT -

Ta­ble ten­nis player Li Chunli, now 50, wants to rep­re­sent New Zealand at the London Olympics in July. I hope she makes it.

Li com­peted at four Olympics, from 1996 to 2004, then re­tired and has been a coach at the last two Com­mon­wealth Games.

But she’s al­ways been highly com­pet­i­tive and has chal­lenged her­self to get to an­other Olympics as a player.

Li se­cured an Olympic women’s ta­ble ten­nis qual­i­fy­ing spot at the Ocea­nia cham­pi­onships in Syd­ney this month. How­ever, her se­lec­tion not as­sured.

The New Zealand Olympic Com­mit­tee must be sat­is­fied she can achieve a top 16 plac­ing. That seems doubt­ful.

At Athens in 2004, she fin­ished ninth-equal in dou­bles and 17th equal in sin­gles. I have a soft spot for Li, though. She was bril­liant at the 2002 Manch­ester Com­mon­wealth Games, win­ning gold in the sin­gles, sil­ver in the dou­bles and bronze in the mixed, and al­most sin­gle-hand­edly dragged New Zealand to a team bronze medal.

Her fierce com­pet­i­tive­ness and fight­ing abil­ity were in­spir­ing.

It is dif­fi­cult to think of any­one who was so ob­vi­ously hon­oured to rep­re­sent New Zealand, yet she was born in China.

If Li is able to jump through the var­i­ous Olympic qual­i­fy­ing hoops, our Olympic se­lec­tors should ac­knowl­edge her stand­ing in the game here by send­ing her to London.

If Li gets to London, she would be one of New Zealand’s old­est ever com­peti­tors, and our ever old­est fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

The hon­our of be­ing New Zealand’s old­est Olympian be­longs to yachtie Edgar Swin­ner­ton, who was 56 years, 335 days at Melbourne in 1956, when he fin­ished 11th in the dragon boat­ing.

If three-day even­ter Mark Todd is cho­sen for London (and he did win Bad­minton last year, af­ter all) he would also be 56.

An­drew Ni­chol­son, an­other eques­trian com­peti­tor, would turn 51 dur­ing the Olympics.

There was news last week that Hiroshi Hoketsu, 71, is to rep­re­sent Ja­pan in the dres­sage in London.

He first com­peted Olympics in 1964.

Amaz­ingly, there have been even older Olympians.

Swedish shooter Os­car Swahn is usu­ally cited as the old­est.

He was 72 when he won a sil­ver medal at An­twerp in 1920, his sixth Olympic medal.

To be strictly cor­rect, Bri­tain’s John Co­p­ley is the old­est ever Olympic medal­list.

He was 73 when he won the sil­ver medal in the 1948 London Olympics en­grav­ings and etch­ings com­pe­ti­tion.

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