Taiwan’s No. 1 player Chuang Chih-yuan (莊智淵) is to face top international players at a major table tennis event hosted by Greater Kaohsiung starting today.
Organizers of the Men’s Table Tennis Tournament in Kaohsiung, with total prize money of NT$3.13 million (US$105,000), said it is the highest-level table tennis event to be hosted in Taiwan.
Chuang is up against seven of the best international players. The most prominent name is Chuang’s nemesis, Ukraine-born world no. 6 Dimitrij Ovtcharov, who now competes for Germany.
Taiwanese audiences should remember Ovtcharov well, as he defeated Chuang in the table tennis semi-final at the 2012 Olympic Games, and dashed the nation’s hopes of securing an Olympic medal for the first time in men’s singles.
World No. 9 Chuang did Taiwan proud last year when he and partner Chen Chien-an won the men’s doubles world title in Paris, thereby claiming the nation’s first world championship title in table tennis.
The other competitors in Kaohsiung are world No. 13 Jun Mizutani from Japan, world No. 19 Joo Se-hyuk from South Korea, Adrian Crican of Romania (world No. 28) and Jiang Tianyi (world No. 31), who was born in China, but now plays for Hong Kong.
Crican is Chuang’s teammate at the German club SV Werder Bremen in the European Table Tennis Union.
Rounding out the field are former world champions Jurgen Persson of Sweden (world no. 1, 1991 to 1992) and Jean-Michel Saive of Belgium (world no. 1 in 1994 to 1995, and 1996).
“All of them are top players with good skills, so I’m facing very tough competition. My aim is to get into the semi-final, where I may face either Ovtcharov or Mizutani,” Chuang told reporters yesterday.
“I have competed against them in the past. Each one has their individual style. For example, South Korea’s Joo Se-hyuk puts powerful spins on the ball and that was tough for me. Maybe facing Saive will be easier, because at 44 he is older than me,” the 32-year-old Chuan said.
Admission to the tournament at Kaohsiung’s K-Arena is free from today through Sunday.
All games are to be televised on MOD sports network.
The event is sponsored by the Taiwan Styrene Monomer Corporation, which is based in the southern port city.