Germany claimed their second bronze medal in a row after defeating South Korea 3-1 in a four-hour marathon consolation final Wednesday morning.
For the Germans, the win furthers their claim as the best table tennis nation outside of Asia. To go along with their bronze medals from Rio and London, the German men’s team also claimed silver in Beijing eight years ago.
The first singles line gave an early indication of what was to come, as Jung Young-Sik took on Bastian Steger in a dogfight of a match.
Jung won the first set 12-10 on the back of a late 3-0 run, but Steger answered back with an 11-6 win in the second. Jung would use a 6-0 run to catapult himself to an 11-6 victory in the third set, but Steger leveled the score again with an 11-6 win of his own.
Jung would take the match in a marathon fifth game. Facing two match points down 10-8, Jung rallied back, winning five of the next six points to win 13-11 and take the first line.
Down a match, Germany turned to world No. 5 Dimitrij Ovtcharov, who quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second match. But Joo Sae-Hyuk would not go quietly into the night; the South Korean fought through a hotly-contested third set to win 11-8, then dominated Ovtcharov 11-2 in the fourth to even the match at two games all.
Now needing to win the decisive fifth game to avoid a 2-0 hole, Ovtcharov dug deep, breaking the tight match open at 5-all with a 6-1 run to win the second singles line and even the match.
The doubles would take on outsized importance now with each team capturing a line. South Korea rolled out Jung Young-Sik and Lee Sang-Su, while Germany countered with Timo Boll and Bastian Steger. After splitting the opening sets, Germany led wire-to-wire in game 3 to win 11-7. South Korea would answer back in the fourth with a 11-9 thriller, setting up the third fifth set in as many matches.
Down 3-1 early in the fifth, Germany went on a 5-0 tear to distance themselves from the Koreans, before using a 3-0 burst to retake the lead late on and win the decider 11-9.
Boll stayed on to play the singles line against Joo Sae-Hyuk. It was a tight affair throughout, but the experience and guile of the elder statesman Boll won out over the youthful exuberance of Joo in game 1, as the German took the set 11-8.
He repeated the feat in the second game, winning 11-9. In the third, with Joo looking exhausted and defeated, Boll kept up the pressure, earning quadruple medal point at 10-6. Following a long rally, Joo’s forehand hit the net and rolled harmlessly back onto his side of the table. Boll threw his hands in the air as he was mobbed by his teammates and coach. Germany had won the bronze medal.
The table tennis action in Rio culminates this evening with the men’s gold medal match between China and Japan, which will get under way at 6:30 PM ET. You can stream that match live on NBCOlympics.com.