A special player
In 1988 in Seoul Yoo Nam Kyu gave a special performance, later in 2004 in Athens Ryu Seungmin did the same, they won men’s singles gold at the Olympic Games.
Now, in the current era is there another player from the Korea Republic who can respond to the occasion and produce a special performance in the grand theatre?
At the most recent World Table Tennis Macao 2020 tournament presented by the Galaxy Entertainment Group, it was disappointment for Jang Woojin, he was beaten in his opening contest by England’s Liam Pitchford. However, when world ranking points were at stake, in what were the two most prestigious events of the year, the Dishang 2020 Men’s World Cup and the Bank of Communications 2020 ITTF Finals, the 25-year-old excelled, he gave very special performances.
On both occasions, totally against the odds, he reached the semi-finals; in the former he commenced play as the no.12 seed, in the latter, the no.14 seed. He was a rank outsider.
Guided by Oh Sangeun, memorably he was embroiled in dramatic contests against most worthy Japanese adversaries. At the Men’s World Cup he recovered from a three games to one deficit to beat Koki Niwa, before at the ITTF Finals, saving two match points to extract revenge against Tomokazu Harimoto, the player against whom he had experienced defeat in the bronze medal contest at the Men’s World Cup.
A reverse when facing Tomokazu Harimoto but the only other player who could halt his progress was China’s Fan Zhendong, the world no.1, the top seed.
Dishang 2020 ITTF Men’s World Cup, Weihai (Fri 13th-Sun 15th November)
Bank of Communications 2020 ITTF World Tour Finals, Zhengzhou (Thu 9th – Sun 22nd Nov)
The outcome is that on the world ranking list issued by the International Table Tennis Federation on Tuesday 1st December, Jang Woojin was the player to make the most significant progress, he climbed from no.18 to no.11 and thus approached his career high of no.9 in May 2019.
Progress but the key factor is not his climb up the ladder, it is the fact he raised the eyebrows, he excelled expectations, he endorsed the fact that on the big stage he can respond and produce something special.
Moreover, it’s not the first time he has performed in such a manner.
Seven years ago at the 2013 World Junior Championships in Rabat, the Korea Republic endured a dismal time in the boys’ team event, no place on the podium; later Jang Woojin set the record straight, he won the boys’ singles title.
Fast forward to the 2015 Asian Championships in Pattaya, in both the men’s team and men’s singles, he beat China’s Zhang Jike, the reigning Olympic champion.
Continue the journey, arrive in Daejeon for the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Platinum Shinan Korea Open; on home soil he completed a clean sweep of titles, the first player ever to achieve the feat. He partnered DPR Korea’s Cha Hyo Sim to mixed doubles gold, won the men’s doubles title partnering Lim Jonghoon before adding the icing to the cake by being crowned the men’s singles champion.
Moreover, later in the year in Incheon, again partnering Lim Jonghoon, he secured men’s doubles gold at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.
Special performances, a player who might just produce the goods on the biggest of stages, is the name not Jang Woojin? There is plenty of evidence.
Editor: Ian Marshall