22 Apr 2017

At the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Korea Open currently being staged in Incheon, you can easily spot an impeccably strong army of coaches for the Korean National Team. Kim Taeksoo, An Jaehyung, Joo Saehyuk and Oh Sangeun in a brutal honest chat confessed their views on the current state of Korean table tennis.

By Neha Aggarwal (Interview by Iulia Necula)

Kim Taeksoo, Men’s Team Coach

Kim Taeksoo, medal winner at both Olympic Games and World Championships, is the Korea’s Men’s National Team coach. He commented on Korea Republic’s performance at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF-Asian Championships

“The Asian Championships was a big and very important event that brought the team together and everyone did extremly well. However, they put so much effort every day that at the Korea Open they are out of energy. They are physically and mentally tired. They had no time to recover from Wuxi as they arrived one day before the Korea Open started.” Kim Taeksoo

He continued, “They came back exhausted from Wuxi and here they just relaxed, I hope this will be a lesson which will stimulate them for the Liebherr 2017 World Championships. They must understand the need to continue and keep up the level. Starting next week, they will have a training camp where they will practise both for singles and doubles.”

Kim Taeksoo believes in strengthening other components too.“It’s important to build the team spirit and improve their shape through a tough training system,” he stressed.  

The 2012 Olympic Games silver medal winning team of Oh Sangeun, Ryu Seungmin and Joo Saehyuk have taken a backseat and are now in different roles (as coaches and administrators) in the sport. So who are the players that can replace their success?

“There are fundamental differences between the two generations, but my bet is on Jeoung Youngsik, Jeong Sangeun, Lee Sangsu and Jang Woojin for the future.” Kim Taeksoo

He ended the conversation on a positive note, “These players have huge potential and capacity to improve, they are still missing some points. My main role is to help them fulfill it by individual and specific training methods.”

Ahn Jaehyung, Women’s Team Coach

Winner of the bronze medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, Ahn Jaehyung is currently the Women’s Team coach and he spoke his mind out on the current generation of players.

“Their abilities are slightly low currently as compared to the previous generation. But we are working very hard to improve the level of the Korean Women’s National Team,” he confessed.

At the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, the women lost to DPR Korea in the quarter-finals. But last week in Wuxi, the team managed to beat them; it shows progress in a short period of time.

“I like to emphasize on small details, step by step development and increase the strength and power in their shots,” he explained. 

In Dusseldorf, the Koreans will be handicapped with Jeon Jihee not being eligible. She is their highest ranked player no.17 on current World Rankings. She is strong in both singles and doubles.

“I have a long term plan considering the number of competitions coming up in the next couple of years. Japan has improved tremendously which is evident in their recent results.”

“Until now, China was the only undeniable powerhouse in table tennis, but now Japan has proved their dominance too and are able to match the Chinese. We should learn from them, take measures and defend ourselves.” Ahn Jaehyung.

Joo Saehyuk

In Incheon, one can easily spot Joo Saehyuk. He is seen coaching and helping young Korean players. Is this a career change for the best defender in the world? He confessed that even though he is still playing in the Chinese League and T2 APAC League, this may be the last season as a player!

Currently, he is also a coach for Samsung Women’s Team in Korea but admits the level of the players he is coaching is not yet so high.

“For now my aim is to improve and grow as a coach for Samsung but in the future, three to five years down the line, I would like to become the national coach. Anyway, if in five years I don’t achieve good results with my players, I will go back to being a player!!!!” joked Joo Saehyuk.

Comparing the new generation to the dream team of 2012 Olympic Games, he said, “It is a good time to bring a change; I am positive that until next year the Korean Team should reach top four at 2018 World Championship.”

He further revealed that China’s results at the Asian Championships might be due to the new plastic ball. 

“For 2017 Liebherr World Championships, I cannot predict that China will surely win the title because the new plastic ball is causing them a lot of troubles. Their opponents are not forced to commit easy mistakes which will lead them into long rallies. Therefore, the opponents of China will have more opportunities to fightback.” Joo Saehyuk

Oh Sangeun

Currently coach the Daewoo Men’s Team, Oh Sangeun is present in Incheon, supporting his players. “As a coach I see things from a different point of view. I not only analyze the game from my perspective but also the opponent’s skills and abilities,” he told the ITTF.

“My job now is to identify the players’ capacities and help them improve their strengths and fill their weaknesses. In the future, I would like to be a national coach if the association considers and decides to nominate me”

Twice Olympic Games medallist and one of the legendary players from Korea Republic, Oh Sangeun now clearly analyzes the difference in the level of players from each generation.

“The current generation needs improvement, they lack fundamental things and are very inconsistent.” -Oh Sangeun.

World Tour 2017 Seamaster Korea Open Joo Saehyuk Oh Sangeun Kim Taeksoo Ahn Jae Hyung

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