Table tennis trio toppled

03 August 2012 / 16:45

Great Britain's women table tennis team exited at the first hurdle of the London 2012 Olympics.

The girls' task was always going to be difficult given they were alongside the bottom eight seeds in the 16-team draw. Yet Joanna Parker, Kelly Sibley and Na Liu were buoyed last week by being tied with the lowest-ranked potential opponent in North Korea - not that it made any difference.

The British trio - sitting 119th, 177th and 153rd in the rankings respectively - went down to the Asian powerhouse, whose side comprised of Ri Myong-Sun, Kim Jong and Ri Mi-Gyong.

The difficulty was always likely to prove too much given all of the British women's opponents sit above Parker in the ITTF rankings.

In an opening match pitting similar players against one another, Parker and Ri Myong-Sun were happy to contest long rallies as they chopped the ball back and forth. While not providing the same level of excitement offered by free-flowing aggressive players, the battle of patience was no less enthralling.

Ri's ability to launch well-timed forehand attacks proved pivotal, however, as she won the opening game.

Parker's calm, defensive approach appeared to be paying off when, after levelling matters, she moved into a 5-3 lead in the third. Yet a brilliantly-judged North Korea time-out paid dividends as Ri went on to take the game and, in the end, the match as well.

Na's clash with Kim featured considerably more brawn, but not the same level of competitiveness. Na, who was raised in China's north-east province of Liaoning before moving to Northern Ireland in 2001, paid the price for making too many unforced errors. That proved costly as, despite enjoying some good moments, she was eventually beaten in straight games.

The defeat meant Parker and Sibley would have to overcome Kim and Ri to ensure Britain avoided exiting at the earliest possible stage.

They could not have got off to a worse start, with both making a catalogue of errors in an opening game the North Koreans won 11-2. The Brits came out fighting in the next and were leading as they appeared to find their rhythm, only for Kim and Ri to step on the accelerator again.

After winning the second 11-7, the North Koreans wrapped up a 3-0 success in the match by taking the next 11-3.