Australia is already his best result, though this is not his first dance. The youngster, seen already this year on the ITTF World Tourt in Qatar, China and Japan, was fearless against Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting, overcoming a 2-1 deficit to turn the tables 4-2 (11-9, 9-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-2). As the main draw begins in Geelong, Cho will face England’s Liam Pitchford for the right to oppose either Tomokazu Harimoto or Wang Chuqin in the round of 16.
He’s beaten big names before. That includes Ho Kwan Kit, who suffered a 4-0 loss at Cho’s hands back in March at the ITTF World Tour Qatar Open. Doha was also a name-making event for Cho. He fought his way through three preliminary round opponents before falling to Japan’s Maharu Yoshimura at the doors of the main draw. Nevertheless, his stock shot way up after his performance in Qatar.
He respects his elders. Faced against 22 year old Wong Chun Ting, the top seeded player in qualification in Australia, Cho had already resigned himself to the probable outcome. “Before the match, I knew that I would play against a strong player so I thought I will take this match as a learning opportunity,” he remarked. “I tried to follow the advice from my coach during the game when I was under pressure, as I am young and don’t have much experience in this kind of big event.”
The result may even have surprised him: “I was able to win three sets in a row afterwards and won this match with the support from my coach Lee Jeoungwoo,” he said.
He has lofty goals. Cho, a 2018 Youth Olympian and part of the new Korean wave in table tennis, aspires to the very top of his sport. “I dream about being an Olympic champion, just like my idol, my compatriot Ryu Seungmin,” he said in 2017. By becoming a member of the Korean national team, he has already accomplished one of his major objectives.
He doesn’t like to fly. Airplanes have been known to make him nervous in the past, but keep your eye on this young man, who may be about to take off.