by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
It is an exciting team; that is the definition of Korea, always supremely fit, fast and athletic but if the current squad is to revive former glories, the group must come together. Notably in addition to the win in 1995, Korea finished in the silver medal position in three consecutive years starting in 2009 in Linz.
Lim Jonghoon is very much the newcomer to the tournament, a situation which Jeoung Youngsik faced in 2010 in Dubai, as did Lee Sangsu and Jeong Sangeun in 2013 in Guangzhou.
Impressively, Lim Jonghoon has four ITTF World Tour Under 21 Men’s Singles titles to his credit, he won in 2016 in Budapest and on home soil in Incheon; last year he retained his Incheon title, before winning in Tokyo. Notably Lim Jonghoon has been preferred to contemporaries of a similar age, in particular An Jaehyun, Cho Seungmin, Park Jeongwoo and Jang Woojin.
However, it is to Lee Sangsu, Jeong Sangeun and Jeoung Youngsik that Korea looks if a podium finish is to be achieved but if that is to happen all three must produce the form of which they are capable.
At the Liebherr 2017 World Championships, Lee Sangsu secured Men’s Singles bronze, significantly beating China’s redoubtable Zhang Jike en route. Problems for Zhang Jike but are the problems against Korea greater for Ma Long, named in the Chinese Team for London?
He does not have the happiest of memories when facing Jeong Sangeun or Jeoung Youngsik. In the Men’s Singles event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Jeong Youngsik scared the living daylights out of China when, in their fourth round Men’s Singles clash, he won the first two games before the champion elect recovered. Similarly, last year at the Seamaster 2017 Asian Championships in Wuxi, in their Men’s Singles third round duel, Jeong Sangeun beat Ma Long.
If such form can be reproduced in London; the efforts of the 1995 team could be replicated but all three will have to find the form that Kim Taeksoo displayed in the Georgia Congress Centre over two decades ago.
On that day in the final, Korea overcame Germany by three matches to two. Kim Taeksoo beat both Jörg Rosskopf and Steffen Fetzner; Yoo Namkyu also accounted for Jörg Rosskopf but lost to Steffen Fetzner. In the one remaining contest, the third match of the fixture, Lee Chulseung was beaten by Richard Prause.
Two defeats for Jörg Rosskopf but he did gain revenge, notably he won the Men’s Singles bronze medal the following year at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games (matches best of five games, each game to 21 points); most pertinently at the quarter-final stage he both saved and surrendered match points before beating Kim Taeksoo in a classic encounter (12-21, 26-24, 21-12, 16-21, 26-24).
In London at the World Team Cup, Jörg Rosskopf is named as the coach for the German Men’s Team.
Korea versus Germany is a possibility, it depends on the draw but if the fixture happens and the engagement is level at two-all, could we have referee’s discretion?
Send out Kim Taeksoo and Jörg Rosskopf to decide the contest! Mouth watering!