S. Korea coach surprised with team’s hard push vs. China at table tennis worlds

BUSAN, Before his team's match against the powerful China at the table tennis world championships on home soil, South Korea men's head coach Joo Sae-hyuk harbored hopes of a miracle. Joo almost had it Saturday, but it wasn't meant to be in the end. South Korea lost 3-2, despite winning two of the first three singles matches in the thrilling battle in the southeastern port city of Busan. South Korea took home a bronze medal for the fourth consecutive tournament Joo admittedly had high expectations for his team, and the trio of Jang Woo-jin, Lim Jong-hoon and Lee Sang-su exceeded them in their near upset of the world No. 1 team. "I was really looking forward to this match, because our players were in great form and they were really determined," Joo said. "I didn't expect our guys to play this well. I think we showed great teamwork." Jang, South Korea's highest-ranked player at No. 14, defeated world No. 2 Wang Chuqin 3-1 (11-7, 2-11, 13-11, 11-6) to open the match. After China won the next match, veteran Lee Sang-su, world No. 27, took down third-ranked Ma Long 3-2 (11-7, 4-11, 12-10, 6-11, 11-4). South Korea needed just one more match win to do the unthinkable and shock China. But Jang lost to world No. 1 Fan Zhendong, and Lim Jong-hoon, world No. 18, lost to Wang in the deciding fifth match. "This team had some veterans with a ton of experience, and they really executed game plans really well," Joo said. "They were able to adjust to tactical changes during matches. That was a nice change from the previous world championships, when we mostly had young players." Joo said, as well as South Korea played, the result could have been even better with stronger play down the stretch. "I think we had a chance to really push China hard toward the end," Joo said. "So that is a bit disappointing. But we still had a great performance here, and we'll try to build on this as we get ready for the Olympics." South Korea secured a spot in the Paris Olympics this summer by making it to the quarterfinals in Busan. With Sou th Korea having been shut out of table tennis medals at each of the past two Summer Games, Joo said the next objective is to end that drought. "I took over the national team right after the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, and the confidence level up and down the team was very low," Joo said. "My first job was to instill confidence in our players. And my ultimate mission now is to bring home a medal from the Olympics." Source: Yonhap News Agency