History

06

The Beginning of China’s Golden Age,
Sweden and Korea’s Resistance

It’s worthy to focus on women’s singles in Calcutta 1975. North Korea’s Park Young-soon defeated China’s Chang Li in finals and got gold medal. Park was the first Korean to win the WTTC title. She was considered as the national hero after winning the Birmingham 1977. The 1979 WTTC was held in Pyongyang, North Korea. South Korea put a lot of effort to go to Pyongyang to participate in the Championships but could not make it possible. The South Korean delegation flew to Geneva, Sweden and tried to enter North Korea but visa was not issued, which showed the influence of the cold war era. In the Pyongyang WTTC, Japan’s Ono Seiji and China’s Ge Xin’ai won men’s and women’s singles while Hungary and China won men’s and women’s team events.

▲ North Korea’s Park Young-soon won women’s singles in 1975 and 1977.

With the Novi Sad 1981 WTTC, held in Former Yugoslav States (Serbia today), WTTC became the stage for the Chinese team. It was the first WTTC that China won all the events. China won all six events in three consecutive WTTCs from Tokyo 1983, Gothenburg 1985 and New Delhi 1987. The famous Jiang Jialian and Cao Yanhua led the advancement of the Chinese table tennis team. It was the beginning stage of the Chinese golden era that is considered to be lasted from the 1990s to nowadays.

In the 1983 General Assembly, it was decided to have two sides of rubber (red and black). China’s tactic of confusing competitors by using same color rubbers could not be used anymore and the use of rackets with red and black rubber was generalized. However, the change could not dramatically influence China’s performance as shown in the games results afterwards. In 1987 General Assembly, Ogimura Ichiro, who was the Japanese champion and who integrated Asian table tennis to Sweden was elected as the new ITTF President.

While the golden era of the Chinese team continued, the men’s Sweden team and women’s Korean team showed consistent resistance. Sweden left scars to China with their ‘living legends’ J-O Waldner and J. Persson, Waldner winning singles in Dortmund 1989 and Persson winning Chiba 1991. The Sweden men’s team conquered men’s team events in 1987, 1989 and 1991 and showed they are the best men’s team during the time. After losing to Sweden, China of the time showed weak points to European table tennis. The semifinals for men’s singles were filled with European players and France’s J-P Gatien won the title defeating Belgium’s J-M Saive.

▲ Legends of Sweden. Won men’s team event three consecutive times in 1987, 1989 and 1991.
▲ Hyun Jung-Hwa winning women’s singles in Gothenburg 1993

For women’s table tennis, Korean team with Hyun Jung-hwa and Yang Yeong-ja was considered a threat to China. Yang made to singles final defeating Chinese players in 1983 and 1987 with her strong drive techniques. Though she had some weakness in physical strength, Yang was evaluated as the most perfect player in terms of technique. Yang won women’s doubles with Hyun in New Delhi 1987. Hyun won the mixed doubles with Yoo Nam-gyu in Dortmund 1989 and won the women’s team event taking part of the unified ‘Korea’ team in Chiba 1991. Hyun achieved ‘Full-House’—winning all WTTC events—by winning singles in Gothenburg 1993.

Written by_Han In-su | Photo by_Table Tennis Monthly Database & ITTF Museum