Deng Yaping (1973—)

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Deng Yaping (1973—)

Chinese table tennis champion. Born on February 5, 1973, in Henan Province, China; daughter of a table tennis coach.

Though table tennis did not become an Olympic event until the Seoul Games in 1988, the Chinese have been dominating the sport since the 1950s. That summer, the Chinese took the gold, silver, and bronze in the singles.

In China, those who show unusual skills in the sport are selected to attend a school, where table tennis is the main curriculum: the daily routine consists of six hours of table tennis, one hour of running and exercise, and two hours of study. Born in 1973, Deng Yaping was playing table tennis by the time she was five; her father was a professional table tennis coach. By age 15, she was playing at a national level, but, because of her 4′10½″ height, she was often missing from the list of China's national team during the later 1980s.

But Deng was quick and very determined. In 1992, in Barcelona, Spain, she upset the topseeded players to win two Olympic gold medals for table tennis in singles and doubles—the first double-gold winner in that event in Olympic history. In the finals, she was up against her doubles partner, Qiao Hong , who was No. 2 in the world. In 1995, at the 43rd World Table Tennis championships, Deng walked away with three gold medals. In 1996 in the Atlanta Olympics, Deng again placed first in women's singles and, with her partner Qiao Hong, took first in doubles as well. Notes Amy Feng , the U.S. women's champion, Deng "has her own style. She has a great serve; 80–90 percent of the time, you get killed. And she's a real quick attacker, backhand and forehand. She can play offense and defense both ways, and she changes all the time."