by Simon Daish
Up there with the best from the start
Local to Pizhou Province, China, Zhang Bian was victim to a major polio outbreak in the region approximately 35 years ago. Finding a real love for sport, Zhang has experienced a fulfilling journey to become one of the world’s finest table tennis stars.
Blasting onto the international scene in 2005, Zhang didn’t take long to establish her presence amongst the very best.
Taking home numerous medals in the early stages of her career, Zhang’s women’s singles class 5 silver medal class 5 team gold at the 2006 World Para Championships in Montreux highlighted just how impressive a player she had already become in a short period of time.
A fine start to her career, but Zhang was only ever heading in one direction with plenty of ambition to fuel her rise to the top.
Road to World and Paralympic glory
Two years on from her World Championships debut Zhang represented her country on home soil at the 2008 Paralympic Games, helping China to the top of the class 4-5 podium in Beijing. However, the honour of competing at a home Paralympic Games was somewhat overshadowed four years later, as Zhang collected two golds at London 2012, one of which came in women’s singles class 5.
Spurred on by her Paralympic joy, Zhang continued to go from strength to strength, producing a stunning campaign in Beijing to add the title of World champion to her already impressive status! Successful outings at the Asian Para Games and Asian Para Championships followed, leading Zhang nicely into her third Paralympic Games appearance.
Untroubled from start to finish, there was simply no stopping Zhang at Rio 2016 – dropping just the one game throughout Zhang defended her class 5 title in convincing fashion, sending out a strong statement to the rest of the world.
Three in a row?
A player who has won it all, the only step that remains is to repeat and win it all again. Zhang Bian appears keen to live by that mentality!
An unrelenting force, Zhang once again went about trying to replicate her performance from the previous Paralympic cycle, successfully defending her singles and team gold medals at the 2018 Asian Para Games and 2019 Asian Para Championships – the latter victory sealed Zhang’s ticket to Tokyo.
Further silverware has come via international Open competition, picking up eight medals, seven golds, over the course of the past two years.
Zhang undoubtedly heads into the next Paralympic Games with form on her side and is well placed to secure a third singles gold in a row upon arrival in Tokyo. Can anyone stop the Chinese great from booking a date with destiny?