Aussie table tennis stars off to London

Two of Australia’s veteran table tennis stars have fended off a tough field to qualify for the London Olympic Games.

William Henzell and Jian Fang Lay both won their respective divisions at the Oceania Olympic Qualification Tournament in Sydney to automatically qualify for the Games in July.

Henzell, 29, was undefeated in the first two days of competition at Sydney Olympic Park despite strong competition from some younger players within the Australian squad.

The Commonwealth Games silver medallist spent the past few months training at a specialist table tennis academy in Austria.

This will be his third Olympic Games, having competed at Beijing and Athens.

Australia’s national head table tennis coach Jens Lang said Henzell’s performance was outstanding.

“He deserves a lot of respect, for how long he has maintained that top spot and remains undefeated,” Lang told AAP.

“He’s confident, he’s playing very, very well and he deserved to qualify.”

Meanwhile in the women’s, Jian managed to better the previously-undefeated New Zealand threat Li Chunli in a nail-biting 4-2 win.

“(It was) an absolutely stunning and thrilling match – it was very, very close,” Lang said.

Chunli was proving to be a real thorn in the side for the Australian squad, defeating Campbell-Innes Peri and Olympian Miao Miao in earlier matches.

Jian is no stranger to Olympic competition, having qualified for Beijing, Athens and Sydney.

She recently trained in her birthplace and table tennis powerhouse China in preparation for the Olympic qualifier.

Under new Olympic regulations, only two players from each national Olympic committee can qualify for the individual table tennis event.

That leaves three remaining Australian men’s and women’s players fighting it out for the remaining spots.

Australia has never won a medal in the table tennis at an Olympic Games.

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