by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
In the bronze medal contest, which started on the morning of Wednesday 17th August and finished in the mid-afternoon, with Timo Boll needing pain killing injections for an injured shoulder, a three matches to one result was the outcome in favour of the European outfit.
Two of the most impressive players earlier in the proceedings faced each other in the opening contest; impressively Bastian Steger had beaten Chuang Chih-Yuan in the contest against Chinese Taipei before when facing Austria he had overcome Stefan Fegerl; his only performance over which there was a question mark was his semi-final reverse against Jun Mizutani but if anyone is playing at a new level in Rio de Janeiro, it is Jun Mizutani.
Equally, Jeoung Youngsik had proved the one player in the whole tournament to seriously threaten China, in the Men’s Singles event he had won the first two games against Ma Long before losing the next four; at the semi-final stage of the Men’s Team competition in opposition to China, he had extended Zhang Jike the full distance.
Hard Fought Duel as Predicted
Did those performances suggest that Jeoung Youngsik was the slight favourite in a contest between two players whose strength is their fearsome backhands; added to the equation in favour of Jeong Youngsik was the fact that on their one previous encounter on the international scene, the verdict he had emerged successful. He beat Bastian Steger in the first round of the Men’s Singles event at the GAC Group 2014 ITTF World Tour, German Open.
However the outcome had been in six games; a hard fought duel was anticipated and such an engagement accrued. The contest went the full distance, at the change of ends Jeoung Youngsik held the advantage, he led 5-3 but at 7-6 it was advantage Bastian Steger. Lee Chulseung, the Korean national coach on duty called “Time Out”.
“It was probably a surprise for Korea; for us we felt that if I was able to win it would be a break point. It was still very disappointing not to win although I had match points. I didn’t think about the singles while playing in the doubles, we were just focused and played a good doubles.” Bastian Steger
Jeoung Youngsik won the next two points, Jörg Rosskopf, the German national coach, followed suit, he called “Time Out”. Immediately the decision bore fruit, Bastian Steger won the next three points to lead 10-8, both match points were saved, the latter with a cruel edge. One more was saved at 11-10 before Jeoung Youngsik won three points in a row to seal the victory (12-10, 6-11, 11-6, 6-11, 13-11).
A major boost for Korea, next into the arena came Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Joo Saehyuk; previous suggest little to choose but the most recent encounter, the Men’s Singles semi-final at the 2013 Swiss Open had gone the way of Dimitrij Ovtcharov in straight games.
It appeared that the Swiss result would be repeated; Dimitrij Ovtcharov won the first two games and appeared comfortable. Solid in defence and with Dimitrij Ovtcharov making an unusual number of mistakes, Joo Saehyuk recovered to force a decider.
“The bronze medallist is often happier on the podium than the silver medallist. It feels much better to win bronze than to lose in the finals. It was the same in London. Winning this bronze today is an incredible feeling.” Dimitrij Ovtcharov
In the vital fifth game, Dimitrij Ovtcharov led 5-3 at the change of ends, Joo Saehyuk levelled. Jörg Rosskopf called “Time Out”. Aggressive with the first attack and heeding the words of the mentor, Dimitrij Ovtcharov conceded just one more point; a five games success was recorded (11-5, 11-9, 8-11, 2-11, 11-6).
Tension Packed Doubles
Full distance contests, it was exactly the same in the doubles engagement, as first the sales tipped in favour of Korea and then in favour of Germany.
The crowd was totally engrossed but at the break prior to the start of the deciding game there was concern in the German camp; Timo Boll had leave the arena, he had dislocated a bone in his shoulder and needed pain killing injections.
“The Korean doubles pairing was expected and we knew we did not have much chance to win the doubles. We took our chances” Jörg Rosskopf
A ten minute medical break was allowed; the players returned, at the change of ends in the fifth game it was advantage Germany. Timo Boll and Bastian Steger led 5-3; then 8-5 before securing the game by the minimal two point margin after Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu recovered to 9-all to gain parity (9-11, 11-6, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9).
Earlier the defeat experienced by Bastian Steger was a major blow to German hopes; similarly the doubles outcome was of similar magnitude for Korea.
It was to prove the crucial contest, nursing the injured shoulder playing cautiously and carefully, taking no risks, using his vast experience to the full; Timo Boll gradually overcame the defensive skills of Joo Saehyuk.
“I feel very relaxed and happy now. It was an emotional match, with lots of ups and downs. It was pretty much all or nothing and I’m sure it was as much a thriller for the fans and supporters as it was to us. It was exciting and I’m glad we got it right. There is more stress in playing for a team. In singles you play for yourself and don’t harm anyone but if you lose in the team you are disappointed for the team as everyone worked hard.” Timo Boll
He emerged successful in three hard fought games (11-8, 11-9, 11-6); the bronze medal belonged to Germany, as in London to Timo Boll, Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Bastian Steger, the same trio as four years earlier.