21 Mar 2017

Defeat in the bronze medal fixture just over four years ago in the Women’s Team event in London signalled the end of a dynasty of success for Korea, it was the first time that their female players had not won a medal in the table tennis competitions at an Olympic Games.

At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Jeon Jihee, Suh Hyowon and Yang Haeun are charged with the task of returning the Asian country to former glories; Yang Haeun only competes in the Women’s Team event, Jeon Jihee and Suh Hyowon are the representatives in the Women’s Singles competition which commences on Saturday 6th August.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

However, neither will be required on the opening day of play. Jeon Jihee is the no.8 seed in the Women’s Singles event, Suh Hyowon is the no.12 seed.

First Appearance

The seeding suggests that to secure a medal in the Women’s Singles event is a momentous task; the size of the challenge is even greater when taken into consideration the fact they are two of only five players, who enter proceedings in the third round and are making their Olympic Games debut.

Notably, the others are Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching alongside the German duo of Petrissa Solja and Han Ying.

Living in Shadow

Tough tasks and it also a case of living up to expectations; whatever success a Korean woman achieves, they will be compared to Hyun Junghwa.

Right handed, pen-hold grip, she became a star name in Korea and beyond the country’s boundaries; such is her fame that she was the major figure in the film “As One”. Ha Jiwon played the part of Hyun Junghwa in the story which relates the Unified Korean Women’s Team success at the 1991 World Championships in Chiba.

Olympic Success

Gold in Chiba, in 1993 it was the same colour medal in the Women’s Singles event at the World Championships in Gothenburg; the last occasion that a non-Chinese player secured the title.

Equally, Hyun Junghwa enjoyed Olympic Games success; in Seoul in 1988 she won the Women’s Doubles title in partnership with Yang Youngja. In 1992 in Barcelona she secured bronze in the Women’s Doubles in harness with Hong Cha Ok and the same colour in the Women’s Singles event.

It is the shadow of Hyun Junghwa, that the modern Korean generation must ply its trade. She set the standard for the rest to follow.

She set the standard for the rest to follow.

Massive Problem

The massive problem for Suh Hyowon in Rio de Janeiro is that she appears in the same quarter of the draw as China’s Li Xiaoxia, the no.3 seed and defending champion; if there is any female player in the world who is adept against the backspin art, that extolled by Suh Hyowon, it is Li Xiaoxia.

Quite simply there is none better, none more devastating.

Prior to a possible meeting with Li Xiaoxia, one of the most improved players in recent times is Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching, the no.7 seed, she is a potential fourth round adversary.


Girls' Singles 1/4 Final.GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.10 - 13 December 2015, Lisbon (Portugal )

Less Difficult but Never Easy

Now for Jeon Jihee, is the task less difficult? If that scenario is judged by the fact that you do not potentially meet a Chinese player until the semi-finals, then the task is less difficult. However, it is never easy!

Jeon Jihee is in the same quarter of the draw as Kasumi Ishikawa, the no.4 seed, with Singapore’s Yu Mengyu, the no.9 seed, being a potential fourth round opponent.

Matters are very much in the balance; it is too close to call. Very much the outcome depends on how Jeon Jihee reacts when faced with adversaries who have Olympic experience.

Previous Meetings

The only meeting against Yu Mengyu on the international scene saw Jeon Jihee suffer a seven games defeat against the Singaporean in the first round of the Women’s Singles event at the GAC Group 2013 ITTF World Tour Kuwait Open.

Against Kasumi Ishikawa she was beaten when the pair met in the Philippines last year but earlier this year in Slovenia, Jeon Jihee reversed the decision.

Famous Footsteps

A Women’s Singles medal for Korea, it is a tall order; the last player to achieve the feat was Kim Kyungah in 2004 in Athens when she beat Singapore’s Li Jiawei in the bronze medal match.

Kim Kyungah, Hyun Hyughwa; they are hard acts to follow.



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