29 Dec 2018

In 2010 in city of Velenje, Lee Sangsu beat Sweden’s Jens Lundqvist to claim gold at the Slovenian Open; the win was significant in that it was the first time that a player, who had commenced proceedings in the qualification stage, had progressed to win an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles title.

Over eight years later, on Sunday 22nd July at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Shinan Korea Open, colleague Jang Woojin repeated the feat but the fact he emerged successful having been required to compete in the preliminary stages was not the significant fact.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

More relevant was the fact that players from DPR Korea travelled south to compete in Daejeon, they formed doubles pairings with the hosts and just to add a little extra spice to the occasion, Jang Woojin secured all three titles on offer, one with a partner from north of the border.

The fact that players from DPR Korea competed added to the occasion; understandably the media responded in numbers but so did the members of the general public. It was the difference between staying at home or travelling to the Chungmu Sports Arena sport arena; those who decided to watch proceedings in the flesh were not disappointed. They witnessed an historic event.

Lee Sangsu, Jang Woojin, Suh Hyowon and Yoo Eunchong all joined forces with players from DPR Korea. In the Men’s Doubles event, Lee Sangsu in harness with Pak Sin Hyok reached the semi-final stage where Hong Kong’s Ho Kwan Kit and Wong Chun Ting ended progress. In the Women’s Doubles Suh Hyowon partnered Kim Song I, the duo experiencing a five games defeat in what could be considered a rather tough draw; the lost to China’s Wang Manyu and Zhu Yuling. Similarly, in the Mixed Doubles event, it was defeat at the first hurdle for Yoo Eunchong who allied with Choe Il; they were beaten by Lee Sangsu and colleague Jeon Jihee.

However, above all pairings the one to attract the attention and gain the greatest level of success was that of Jang Woojin and Cha Hyo Sim; not seeded they caused upset after upset to be crowned Mixed Doubles champions. In the opening round they beat Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting and Doo Hoi Kem, the no.2 seeds, the pair against whom they were later to lose in the title deciding contest at the end of year Grand Finals, before causing Hong Kong more pain by ousting Ho Kwan Kit and Lee Ho Ching to secure a semi-final place.

Confidence blossoming, they overcame Chinese Taipei’s Chen Chien-An and Cheng I-Ching, silver medallist at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships, before beating China’s Wang Chuqin and Sun Yingsha to claim the title. Later Wang Chuqin and Sun Yingsha combined to win gold at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

Success for Jang Woojin, the following day he added to that success; he partnered Lim Jonghoon to victory in the Men’s Doubles final against Hong Kong’s Ho Kwan Kit and Wong Chun Ting, a feat they were later to repeat at the Grand Finals, before securing the Men’s Singles title at the expense of China’s Liang Jingkun.

A quite remarkable feat and note the names Jang Woojin beat en route to the final. He finished in first place in his group ahead of Germany’s Patrick Baum and Slovakia’s Thomas Keinath, before causing Germany more heartache by beating Patrick Franziska. Safely through to round two, he caused a major upset by beating China’s Xu Xin, before accounting colleague Jeong Sangeun and Japan’s Jun Mizutani.

Success against the odds and comparable to the gold medal secured at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games by compatriot Ryu Seungmin, the man who played a major role in organizing the players from DPR Korea to compete in Daejeon and the man who presented the awards.

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