by Henry Chen
It was in April 2016 when the relationship between Chiang Hung-Chieh and Ai Fukuhara became public knowledge; a surprise for many but their plans to marry soon were most unforeseen.
Following the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the two athletes officially became husband and wife; they made the announcement during a press conference held last September in Tokyo. Since their wedding plans came out into the open, there was one major concern: can they still stay devoted to their table tennis careers?
Chinese Taipei’s Chiang Hung-Chieh responded by playing in the European League after they married. Such a response was not the same with Ai Fukuhara, in recent years crucial to Japanese success. She explained her focus was in being a good housewife.
The groom revealed during the wedding that there could be new plans for both; the future depended on his situation as an athlete and club commitments.
“I am currently playing in the European League and Ai has always been beside me. We’ll wait until the League finishes; we might have new plans. The location of my job and the league will determine where I will live in the future. I’ll think it over when the time arrives”, Chiang Hung-Chieh.
Days without training can quickly affect the overall competitive state of an athlete; Ai Fukuhara has now missed training and competing for several months.
Can Ai Fukuhara still return into shape in time for the Liebherr 2017 World Championships? Or is she already preparing another surprise, an impending retirement?
Notably, having not competed since the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and thus not been active internationally for a period of four months, the name of Ai Fukuhara doesn’t appear in the latest World Rankings released on Tuesday 3rd January.