2005 Asian Championships: Unusual happenings in Jeju
Most certainly it doesn’t happen that often when it does happen most certainly it raises the eyebrows; at the 2005 Asian Championships held in Jeju, the Korea Republic from Saturday 27th August to Friday 2nd September, it happened.
Neither the women's team nor the women's singles titles finished in the hands of China, the country is so dominant in the sport of table tennis.
The leading names at the time, Zhang Yining and Wang Nan were not on duty; nevertheless, China fielded a very strong line up with Niu Jianfeng, Guo Yue, Guo Yan, Li Xiaoxia, and 14-year-old Liu Shiwen all present.
In the women's team event, China experienced few problems and proceeded as expected to the main draw beating Thailand, Jordan, and Korea Republic all by the three-nil margin. Similarly, in the quarter-finals, they succeeded as expected overcoming India in a similar style before facing the hosts at the penultimate stage, a match they duly lost three-two and thus had to settle for the bronze medal position.
The contest started badly for China. Niu Jianfeng lost to Moon Hyunjung and by the very narrowest of five game margins, Guo Yue was beaten by the defensive skills of Kim Kyungah. China recovered to win the next two matches with Guo Yan overcoming Lee Eunhee in five games and Guo Yue defeating Moon Hyunjung.
However, there was not to be a dramatic recovery, Kim Kyungah defeated Niu Jianfeng in straight games in the deciding contest and China had to settle for the bronze medal
"China losing to Korea was certainly a major talking point", explained Steve Dainton, at the time the Director of the ITTF Asia Office who was present in Jeju. "The Chinese team didn't perform that well, it was unusual to see them under pressure."
Certainly, it was an unaccustomed situation; we are used to seeing Chinese female players winning with ease but nobody is infallible and perhaps their preparation was not as thorough as usual.
"Undoubtedly the Chinese National League is becoming more and more important; it seems to be getting stronger each year", continued Steve Dainton. "The effect is that the players were not together for national team training prior to the tournament and perhaps they were not as well prepared as usual."
The title eventually went to Hong Kong who defeated Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, and Mongolia in the group stage before overcoming Chinese Taipei, Japan and Korea, all by the margin of three games to nil.
Similarly, in the women's singles, it was the representatives of Hong Kong who prevailed and the Chinese who stumbled. Both Guo Yue and Niu Jianfeng lost to Hong Kong's Lau Sui Fei, the former in the quarters, the latter in the semis. Meanwhile, it was a quarterfinal exit for Guo Yan at the hands of Lin Ling, whilst one round earlier Li Xiaoxia had lost to Kim Kyungah.
"Two Hong Kong players in the women's singles final, that was big news", said Cindy Leung, a native of Hong Kong and Chair of the ITTF Umpires and Referees Committee. "There were several reporters from Hong Kong in Korea and therefore we received very good publicity back home."
Consolation for the Chinese women came in the form of Liu Shiwen. In the women's singles, she beat fifth seed Tie Yana in the third round before exiting proceedings at the hands of Japan's Ai Fukuhara one round later.
Meanwhile, in the women's doubles, there was salvation, she clinched gold, partnering Guo Yan to a semifinal victory over Tie Yana and Zhang Rui and a final success against Athens Olympic Games bronze medallists Guo Yue and Niu Jianfeng, who had beaten Ai Fukuhara and Ai Fujinuma at the penultimate stage.
Disappointment for Tie Yana but not for her Hong Kong colleagues Lin Ling and Lau Sui Fei; the two players contested the women's singles final with Lin Ling emerging victorious in four straight games. She beat second seed, Singapore's Li Jia Wei, in the semi-finals; one round earlier Li Jia Wei had ended Korean hopes by overcoming Kim Kyung Ah.
Final: KOREA 0-3 HONG KONG
Kim Kyungah v Lin Ling -9,6,-6,9,-8
Kim Bok Rae v Tie Yana -3,2-6,-2
Moon Hyun Jung v Lau Sui Fei -7 -11 -3
Third Place: CHINA & JAPAN
Niu Jianfeng (CHN) bt Ai Fukuhara (JPN) 10,4,3,-9,3
Lau Sui Fei (HKG) bt Guo Yue (CHN) 7,-8,8,-3,13,-7,11
Lin Ling (HKG) bt Guo Yan (CHN) 10,-13,8,-11,8,9
Li Jia Wei (SIN) bt Kim Kyung Ah (KOR) 8,10,9,7
Lau Sui Fei (HKG) bt Niu Jianfeng (CHN) -4,9,5,8,-4, 1O
Lin Ling (HKG) bt Li Jia Wei (SIN) 11,-5,2,7,-10,8
Lin Ling (HKG) bt Lau Sui Fei (HKG) 10,6,10, 4