A joint table tennis team from the two Koreas yesterday won the final in mixed doubles at the Korea Open, claiming the first gold in the latest installment of sporting diplomacy on the peninsula.
Jang Woo-jin, a male player from the South, and Cha Hyo-sim, a female player from the North, defeated China 3-1 at the mixed doubles final at the international tournament held in the South’s city of Daejeon.
It was the first gold medal won by an inter-Korea sports team in nearly three decades after a women’s joint table tennis team in 1991 scored a shock victory over reigning champion China in the World Championship in Japan.
China’s Wang Chuqin and Sun Yinsha won the first set 11-5 before the Korean team thrashed them 11-3, 11-4, 11-8 in consecutive sets as some South Korean fans chanted in unison “We are one.”
“I really wanted to win this game ... and the cheers from the crowd gave me goosebumps,” Jang told reporters after the game. “I saw Hyo-sim crying during the ceremony and it broke my heart that we have to say goodbye soon.”
The two Koreas have often used sports to break ice on the volatile inter-Korea relations by forming joint teams.
Eight female and eight male table tennis players from the North, including Kim Song-i — a women’s singles bronze medalist at the 2016 Rio Games — competed in the Korea Open.
Four joint teams — men’s and women’s doubles, as well as two mixed doubles — were formed. The men’s doubles team on Friday won bronze.
The Koreas are also to field joint teams in canoeing, rowing and women’s basketball at next month’s Asian Games in Indonesia.
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