Japan upsets China for table tennis mixed doubles gold

Ito Mima (L) and Jun Mizutani (R) of Team Japan celebrate after winning their Mixed Doubles Gold Medal match on day three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on July 26, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Ito Mima (L) and Jun Mizutani (R) of Team Japan celebrate after winning their Mixed Doubles Gold Medal match on day three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on July 26, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The host country knocked off a heavyweight for Olympic gold in table tennis on Monday.

Japanese pair MIZUTANI Jun and ITO Mima ended the People's Republic of China's recent dominance in the sport by beating XU Xin and LIU Shiwen 4-3 for the mixed doubles title.

The upset comes five years after China swept all four table tennis tournaments at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. It's also the first time China has not won gold in singles, doubles or team table tennis since 2004.

Hopes were still high for Japan entering the match, though. Mizutani won bronze in the singles in Rio 2016, and some consider Ito to be China's biggest threat in the female ranks.

China got off to a fast start, winning the first two games 11-5 and 11-7. Japan fought back in the third game, winning 11-8, and then took two more close games, 11-9 in the fourth and 11-9 in the fifth.

China then won the sixth game, 11-6, to set up a deciding seventh game, which Japan dominated, taking an 8-0 lead and holding on for an 11-6 win — and the gold.

China's table tennis team is so strong that Liu, the women's world champion, didn't even make the women's singles' team and is only playing team events.

The Chinese pairing had beaten the French duo, Emmanuel Lebesson and Jia Nan Yuan, 4-0 in the semi-final to set up the gold-medal match, while the French headed to the bronze medal game against Chinese Taipei. The world number one pairing, LIN Yun-Ju and CHENG I-Ching, walked away with the bronze after beating the French duo, 4-0.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.