Generation Gap, the Example to Young Koreans to Follow, Joo Saehyuk
Courtesy of ITTF
A World Championships debut in Osaka in 2001, most memorably two years later in Paris the runner up in the Men’s Singles event; at 36 years of age, Joo Saehyuk is very much the voice of experience in the Korean outfit set to compete in the forthcoming Perfect 2016 World Team Championships, which commence on Friday February 28th.
The other members of the squad are all from a generation younger.
Lee Sangsu and Jeong Sangeun are both 25 years old; Jung Youngsik is one year younger while Jang Woojin is only 20 years of age.
Only One Title
Over the years, Joo Saehyuk has dazzled with his incredible defensive skills but somewhat strangely, he has only ever won one ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles title; he succeeded on home soil in Jeonju in 2006 when beating Frenchman, Damiel Eloi in the final.
It is that fact that perhaps sums up his colleagues, all have enjoyed impressive results but they are yet to establish themselves amongst the very elite of the world.
In Kuala Lumpur they are the no.4 seeds in the Men’s Team event; to justify that exalted status the young men who join forces with Joo Saehyuk have to prove themselves in the hottest cauldron of sport.
Strong from Backhand
Jung Youngsik, somewhat different from most Koreans in the fact that his backhand is stronger than his forehand, made a major breakthrough in 2015 when he won two GAC Group ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles titles; he won in Australia and on home soil in Korea.
Notably in the latter he beat Joo Saehyuk in the final, having in Australia, secured gold at the final expense of Hong Kong’s Ho Kwan Kit.
However, how many times have we seen Jung Youngsik embroiled in breath-taking rallies, dramatic contests only to lose by the very narrowest of margins in the deciding game?
At the GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in Lisbon last December, his first round Men’s Singles defeat at the hands of Japan’s Yuya Oshima was a prime example.
Two ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles titles to his credit, it is the same for Lee Sangsu. In 2010 he created history in Slovenia by becoming the first player to win such a title, who had been required to compete in the qualification stages.
Memorably he beat Sweden’s Jens Lundqvist in the final before one year later striking gold in Poland at the final expense of Russia’s Alexander Shibaev.
World Junior Champions
ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles titles but that success still eludes Jang Woojin and Jeong Sangeun, the two Koreans who have won the Boys’ Singles title at the World Junior Championships. Jeong Sangeun won in Palo Alto in 2007, Jang Woojin in Rabat in 2013.
Similarly both have ITTF World Tour Under 21 Men’s Singles titles to their credit but have yet to graduate. Jeong Sangeun won in his native Korea in 2009; Jang Woojin, likewise in Korea in 2014 as well as last year in Australia and China.
Jang Woojin dilemma
Notable results with no doubt the highlight being his fifth round win over China’s Zhang Jike in the fifth round of the Men’s Singles event at the 2015 Asian Championships; the following round he was beaten in straight games by China’s Wong Chun Ting.
Perhaps therein lies to current dilemma with Jang Woojin?
It is somewhat similar with regards to the Korean Women’s Team in Kuala Lumpur; the only difference being that they do not have the benefit of the senior hand.
Seo Hyowon, 27 years old, is the eldest and is the only member of the squad with ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles titles to her credit. She won in 2013 in Poland and in her Korean homeland while more recently last year she succeeded in Belgium.
Pertinently in Korea she beat Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa in a dramatic final, having in Poland accounted for China’s Sheng Dandan, before in Belgium recording another title deciding win to catch the eye. She beat Singapore’s Feng Tianwei.
Similar results in Kuala Lumpur are demanded if Korea is to achieve podium status.
Leading the Korean Women’s Team in the Malaysian capital city is Yang Haeun who celebrated her 22nd birthday on Thursday February 25th; she has yet to win an ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles title but on three occasions she has come close.
In 2012 she was beaten in the final in Spain by colleague Kim Kyungah, last year in Argentina by her doubles partner, Jeon Jihee, also from Korea; before earlier this year losing to Hong Kong’s Tie Yana in the title decider in Hungary.
Yang Haeun has yet to match her ITTF Under 21 Women’s Singles success where she won nine times; the same as Singapore’s Yu Mengyu. Only Kasumi Ishikawa has more, she has ten her name.
Yet to Make Mark
Meanwhile, for 27 year old Park Youngsook, 19 year old Lee Zion and 16 year old Kim Jiho no such ITTF World Tour success, either in in Women’s Singles or Under 21 Women’s Singles events, has come their way.
If fact for Kim Jiho the accent has been on the ITTF Junior Circuit; notably in 2015 she won in the Slovak Republic and in Korea.
Similar to the other members of the Korea Team in Kuala Lumpur, it is a step in to the big time, a chance to seize an opportunity.
Korea occupies the no. seeded position in the Women’s Team event.