History

10

To Play a Leading Role in the World of Table Tennis
2020 World Team Table Tennis Championships Busan

First established with a few European countries, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has today become the largest international sport federation with 226 member National Associations. The first World Table Tennis Championships was held with only nine countries participating, while it now has become an enormous event that involves more than 72 countries in team Championships. The 2020 World Team Table Tennis Championships (WTTC) is to be hosted in the city of Busan, Republic of Korea. The 2020 World Team Table Tennis Championships Busan holds men’s and women’s team events. It’s the 55th WTTC being paired with the Liebherr 2019 World Table Tennis Championships held in Budapest, Hungary in 2019 that hosted individual events.

The first WTTC was held in 1926 and it has built the historic 94 years as of 2020. While the fellow East Asian countries like China (five times) and Japan (seven times) hosted the WTTC multiple times, the Republic of Korea hasn’t had the chance to host one in its territory. Even though Korea has been calling itself as a table tennis powerhouse, its presence has not been well-demonstrated in the world of international table tennis. It is also expected that hosting of the WTTC will become a great opportunity for Korean table tennis in terms of diplomacy. The players would also welcome the opportunity to challenge the competitors in their home ground.

Though Korean table tennis could not demonstrate phenomenal or outstanding achievements in WTTCs, the following five events were considered remarkable: women’s team event in Sarajevo 1973 and Chiba 1991, Hyun Jung-hwa’s women’s doubles (with Yang Yeong-ja, 1987), mixed doubles (Yoo Nam-kyu,1989) and women’s singles (1993). In addition, Yang Ha-eun’s gold in mixed doubles with the Chinese player Xu Xin in Suzhou 2015 was also an astonishing achievement.

▲ Korean and Chinese team collaborated to win gold. Xu Xin and Yang Ha-eun in Suzhou 2015.

However, regardless of the number of gold medals, Korean table tennis always has secured its own presence in the WTTCs. Korean table tennis was considered as the only rival to China, while the Chinese team’s heyday was at its peak from the 1990s to 2000s. The men’s team event members of Oh Sang-eun (Shanghai 2005 singles semi-finalist), Joo Se-hyuk (Paris 2003 singles silver medalist) and Seung-min Ryu (Zagreb 2007 singles semi-finalist) advanced to the final in men’s team event for two consecutive times in Bremen 2006 and Guangzhou 2008 competing against the Chinese team. Since then, the men’s team has been excelling to semi-finals. In Dusseldorf 2017 and Liebherr 2019, Lee Sang-su and Ahn Jae-hyun advanced into semi-finals in singles amongst the invincible Chinese players.

The women’s team, who led the table tennis fever in Korea, got second place in Tianjin 1995 and was in the semi-final in Kuala Lumpur 2000 and Osaka 2001 in team events. Ryu Ji-hye made it to the semi-final in Eindhoven 1999. Though the women’s team had a difficult time going through shift in generations, it found its way back to the semi-finals in Halmstad 2018. At Halmstad, a unified Korean team was formed after encountering the Democratic People’s Republic of Korean team in the quarter finals, reviving the inspiration made in Chiba 1991. It’s the table tennis powerhouses including Korea, Germany, Sweden, Japan, etc. and their tireless attempts to challenge the Chinese team that continues to make the WTTC exciting.

▲ The Korean table tennis heroes with remarkable achievements in WTTC, Oh Sang-eun, Se-hyuk Joo and Ryu Seng-min.

The Busan WTTC is expected to be a great starting and/or turning point for the Korean table tennis. Led by the President Ryu Seung-min, the gold medalist of 2004 Athens Olympics and hero of the WTTC Korean team, the Korean Table Tennis Association is striving to host one of the best WTTCs ever while meeting up the expectation of the world table tennis.

The Korean table tennis expects to have the lead role in the world table tennis, which has the history of almost 100 years, with the advancement of Korean players achieving their goals in the Busan WTTC. The Busan WTTC is to be hosted from 22 March 2020 to 29 March 2020 in BEXCO, Busan.

▲ The unified Korean team revived the inspiration from Chiba 1991 in Halmstad 2018.
▲ Ryu Seng-min, the President of Korean Table Tennis Association, has received the ITTF flag from the ITTF President Thomas Weikert. 2020 WTTC will be hosted in Busan, Republic of Korea.
Written by_Han In-su | Photo credit to_Table Tennis Monthly Database