The Hong Kong women’s table tennis team had its Tokyo Olympics dream crushed by the elite paddlers of Japan, although they will still have a chance to win the bronze medal.
Facing the top three Japanese athletes – all of whom have higher world rankings than the paddlers in Hong Kong – the Olympians in Hong Kong struggled to keep pace.
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A team match consists of five matches: one doubles and four singles. It takes three wins to qualify for the final, but the Hong Kong team have lost three games in a row.
“They have to be more daring,” said Li Jing, the team’s coach. “Watch more horror movies and they have a better chance of winning. They can then be more assertive.
He added that the Japanese athletes were strong competitors, so he had expected defeat.
In the first match, dynamic Hong Kong duo Minnie Soo Wai-yam and Lee Ho-ching suffered a 0-3 loss to Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa and Miu Hirano.
It was then up to Doo Hoi-kem, ranked No. 15 in the world, to win the second match against Mima Ito, the No. 3 in the world. But the Japanese athlete turned out to be the strongest table tennis player and won the match 3-1.
Hirano of Japan went on to win the third game against Lee of Hong Kong 3-0, which allowed his side to advance to the final.
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Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi-kem lost to Japan’s Mima Ito, whose team would advance to the final. Photo: AFP
After the loss, the Hong Kong athletes admitted they had failed to catch up with the Japanese paddlers.
“It wasn’t just that they were fast,” Soo said. “We couldn’t find our rhythm.
Hong Kong has so far won three medals at the Tokyo Games: fencer Edgar Cheung Ka-long won gold in individual foil, while Siobhan Haughey won two monies in the 100m and 200m freestyle.