Widely acclaimed as the greatest female player in table tennis history, Deng Yaping was the top-ranked woman in the world for eight consecutive years from 1991. A naturally attacking player of small stature, she won 18 individual and team titles at either Olympic or world level during her illustrious career and was named Chinese Sports Personality of the Century in 1999.
She clinched Olympic gold in both singles and doubles at the Barcelona Games in 1992, and repeated the feat at the Atlanta Games four years later. She won the world singles title in 1991 and 1995, was world doubles champion with Qiao Hong in 1989 and 1995 and won both the world singles and doubles crowns for a third time in 1997.
Yaping first picked up a table tennis bat at the age of five and, after being coached by her father, she was beating the best players in China by the age of 13. "Even from an early age, I dreamed of being world champion, " she said. In 1989, she won the Asian Cup and the following year clinched three titles at the 11th Asian Games. Her breakthrough at the highest level came in 1991 when she captured the world singles title in Japan and that began her domination of the sport for the next seven years.
She won Olympic doubles gold with Qiao at Barcelona in 1992 and then took the singles crown after beating her compatriot in the singles final. She and Qiao repeated their doubles success at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and Yaping also successfully defended her singles title by beating Taiwan's Chen Jing in the final. She became world champion for the third time in both singles and doubles in 1997 but, by the end of that year, the 24-year-old felt she had achieved enough in the game and her thoughts were focusing on retirement from competition.
She enrolled at Qinghua University in Beijing and then took up a scholarship at the Centre for English Language at Nottingham University in England to complete a Masters degree. She has also been involved with the International Table Tennis Federation's programme for women's development. She worked as a member of the IOC Ethic Commission in 2002 and now is both member of the IOC Sport and Environment Commission and member of the IOC Athletes Commission. She is also member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference of China and member of the Chinese Olympic Committee. She is heavily involved in the promotion of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.