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Olympic Games: can Jang Woojin make the difference?

Friday 28 May

A player who can produce a special performance and lift a team; is that player Jang Woojin?

At the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the men’s team event commencing on Sunday 1st August, on debut in the prestigious multi-sport gathering, he lines up alongside Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu.

Moreover, could there be a special source of motivation? Medals at the sport’s major events are not an everyday occurrence.

Now approaching three years ago, at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships in Budapest, a medal was in sight; it did not happen, at the quarter-final stage of the men’s singles event, he was beaten by the narrowest of seven game margins by colleague, An Jaehyun.

Losing to a colleague is never a true reflection of a player’s standing; the element of familiarity comes into the equation.

In the Hungarian capital city of Budapest, Jang Woojin was so near yet so far. It was the same for the trio of Jeoung Youngsik, Lee Sangsu and Joo Saehyuk at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. They experienced a 3-1 defeat in the bronze medal fixture in opposition the Germany’s Timo Boll, Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Bastian Steger.

They needed someone to come to the party, someone who could just defy the odds; two events stand out which suggest Jang Woojin may just be the man.

Staged in the Moroccan capital city of Rabat in early December 2002, in the boys’ team event, the Korea Republic had underperformed, no medals, it was not a happy group of coaches and officials! In the boys’ singles, Jang Woojin responded.

Fleet of foot, he gave a special performance.

He beat Sweden’s Anton Källberg, Chinese Taipei’s Wen Wei-Chieh and China’s Liang Jingkun to reach the quarter-finals where the good form continued. He ousted Japan’s Yuto Muramatsu, prior to ending Chinese hopes by defeating Kong Lingxuan and Zhou Kai.

Note, he did things the hard way, he accounted for three Chinese adversaries, boys’ team gold medallists earlier in the proceedings.

Fast forward to the 2018 in Daejeon, once again Jang Woojin gave a special performance. He became the first player to complete a full house of titles at an ITTF World Tour tournament.

The partnership untried, he joined forces with DPR Korea’s Cha Hyo Sim to win the mixed event, later he partnered colleague Lim Jonghoon to men’s doubles gold, before reserving the top step of the men’s doubles podium.

Furthermore, at the final hurdle, notable names were put to the sword. In the mixed doubles, it was success against China’s Wang Chuqin and Sun Yingsha, later in the year gold medallists at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games; in the men’s doubles, the victims were Hong Kong’s Ho Kwan Kit and Wong Chun Ting, in the men’s singles, Liang Jingkun.

In Tokyo, can Jang Woojin produce another special performance; if so, could it be a place on the podium as opposed to in Rio de Janeiro, so near yet so far?

Editor: Ian Marshall

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