by Ian Marshall, Editor
Very much Wong Chun Ting is the player to whom Hong Kong looks.
Present at every World Championships since 2013 in Paris, he lines up alongside Ho Kwan Kit, Ng Pak Nam, Lam Siu Hang and Li Hon Ming; at 28 years of age he is the senior member of the team, the next in age order being Li Hon Ming who, on Monday 13th January, celebrated his 24th birthday.
Experienced but in the past year Wong Chun Ting has not enjoyed the best of form. He finished in 17th place on the 2019 ITTF World Tour men’s singles standings, his best a quarter-final finish in China and Austria. Following the withdrawal of China’s Wang Chuqin, he gained an invitation to the Grand Finals but was beaten in the opening round by the latter’s colleague, Liang Jingkun.
The result is that in 2019 on the men’s world rankings, he fell from no.8 in January to no.19 in December, the position he currently holds; it is his lowest status since March 2015 when listed at no.34.
Equally, his colleagues have not shone in recent times, Lam Siu Hang reached the semi-final stage of the men’s singles event at the 2019 ITTF Challenge Indonesia Open but amongst the support group that is the only success of note.
The situation creates somewhat of a dilemma for Hong Kong China, Wong Chun Ting is their leading player, so logic suggests in the Olympic Games team format, he is selected to play in the singles matches.
However, Wong Chun Ting, right handed pen-hold, adroit when playing over the table is very much a doubles expert; he has formed a successful mixed partnership with Doo Hoi Kem and more pertinently a men’s doubles pair with the left handed Ho Kwan Kit. Notably, on the 2019 ITTF World Tour they won in Qatar beating Germany’s Timo Boll and Patrick Franziska in the final.
A formidable pair but is Ho Kwan Kit in harness with the right handed Lam Siu Hang the more likely combination in Gondomar? On the 2019 ITTF World Tour the partnership was tried but with only moderate success, the best being quarter-final exits in the Czech Republic and Sweden.
Need a hero
So what is the answer for Hong Kong China? Can one member of the team tread in the footsteps of Tang Peng, the player who prior to moving to the Special Administrative Region achieved success at what many consider the toughest tournament on planet earth. He won the men’s singles title at the Chinese National Championships.
Under a different system to the present day, when proceedings were initially organized on a group basis, at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the debut for team events, the Hong Kong China trio comprising Cheung Yuk, Ko Lai Chak and Li Ching experienced a 3-1 defeat in the bronze medal semi-final contest when facing the Korea Republic’s Oh Sangeun, Ryu Seungmin and Yoon Jaeyoung.
London and Rio de Janeiro
Enter Tang Peng; he was present in both London and Rio de Janeiro. Moreover, he was the player to shine; especially against Japan.
An eventual fourth place in London, lining up alongside Jiang Tianyi and Leung Chu Yan, at the quarter-final stage, he beat both Seiya Kishikawa and Koki Niwa in a 3-2 team win. In Rio de Janeiro, with Wong Chun Ting and Ho Kwan Kit completing the selection, in the same round, in a 3-1 defeat he overcame Koki Niwa. Notably, in both meetings against Japan, Tang Peng remained unbeaten.
It is that level of performance that is needed in Gondomar from the Hong Kong China player who is scheduled to play in the two singles matches; the answer is simple! Bring back Tang Peng!