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S. Korea secures at least silver in men's table tennis team; women take bronze

Sept. 25, 2023 - 21:39 By Yonhap

Lim Jong-hoon of South Korea hits a shot against Nima Alamian of Iran during his singles match in the semifinals of the men's table tennis team event at the Asian Games at Gongshu Canal Sports Park Gymnasium in Hangzhou, China, on Monday. (Reuters-Yonhap)

HANGZHOU, China -- South Korea secured at least the silver medal in the men's table tennis team event of the ongoing Asian Games in China on Monday, while the women's team took bronze following its loss in the semifinals earlier in the day.

In the men's semifinals, South Korea knocked off Iran 3-0 by winning its first three singles matches at Gongshu Canal Sports Park Gymnasium in Hangzhou.

Leading off for South Korea, Lim Jong-hoon defeated Nima Alamian in the first singles match 3-2 (11-8, 11-5, 9-11, 11-13, 11-9). Jang Woo-jin then survived a five-game thriller, beating Noshad Alamiyan 3-2 (9-11, 11-5, 11-4, 8-11, 11-8).

Park Gang-hyeon had a much easier time in his deciding match against Seyed Amir Hossein Hodaei, dispatching the Iranian 3-0 (11-9, 11-7, 11-5).

South Korea will make its 10th consecutive appearance in the Asiad final, though its last gold medal came in 1990.

Though the other semifinal match between China and Chinese Taipei hadn't finished by the time South Korea booked its ticket to Tuesday's final, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that China, the world's preeminent table tennis power, would play for the gold medal.

Featuring world No. 1 Fan Zhendong and five-time Olympic champion Ma Long, China will be hard to overcome for any team.

"Honestly, beating China is much easier said than done. It's not something you can do just because you try hard," Lim said. "But if we go crazy that particular day in the gym, you never know. We've done everything we could, and I am just going to enjoy the final tomorrow. I am going to have a pretty good night's sleep."

Earlier in the day, South Korea settled for bronze after falling to Japan 3-1 in the women's team semifinals.

Only Jeon Ji-hee won her singles match, while teen star Shin Yu-bin dropped both of her singles matches and Suh Hyo-won lost her only singles match.

Shin, the top-ranked South Korean singles player at No. 8, led off the competition, but suffered a 3-0 (11-7, 11-6, 11-8) loss to ninth-ranked Hina Hayata.

Jeon eked out a 3-2 (3-11, 14-12, 11-9, 4-11, 11-6) win over Miu Hirano, tying the match score at 1-1.

But then Japan's own teenage sensation, the 15-year-old Miwa Harimoto, took down Suh 3-0 (11-6, 12-10, 11-5).

Shin went out against Hirano trying to keep South Korea alive, but lost 3-1 (13-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-9).

There are no bronze medal matches in table tennis team events at the Asian Games, and South Korea earned its second straight bronze in the women's team competition.

South Korea has not reached the final in this discipline since winning silver in 1990.

This was the first Asian Games medal for Shin, but she was in tears after the semifinals loss, blaming herself for not lifting the team to the final.

"I am disappointed. I'll try to bounce back and play better in individual matches," Shin said, with her eyes puffy from tears. "I want to thank my teammates for helping me win this medal at my first Asian Games."

Suh, 36, and Jeon, 30, said Shin had apologized to them for not getting the job done.

"Yu-bin is playing the role of the ace for the team, and I couldn't do it as well as she's been doing it," Jeon said. "She doesn't need to get too down on herself. She can make up for this in her individual matches." (Yonhap)