Chuang Chih-yuan (莊智淵) and Chen Chien-an (陳建安) received a heroes’ welcome yesterday at Taiwan Cooperative Bank’s headquarters after their historic win over Chinese rivals in the men’s doubles category at the World Table Tennis Championships on Sunday in Paris, France.
The Taipei-based bank has been sponsoring the two men since they were young players.
Despite a 10-year age difference, the duo proved to be a perfect match in the face-off against their Chinese rivals, securing the championship by winning four of six games. Their win not only broke the record of a silver medal set by women’s player Chen Jing (陳靜), but it also dashed China’s hope of an 11th championship title at the competition.
Chuang and Chen thanked the bank, the government and their families for their support. In return, the bank presented each man with a NT$200,000 (US$6,700) check for his performance in Paris.
Chuang also received a NT$200,000 award from the Kaohsung Municipal Athletics Association, while Chen has been given NT$500,000 by the Miaoli County Government to help fund his training.
Adding in the prize money from the Sports Administration, Chuang received a total of NT$1.3 million and Chen NT$1.6 million.
However, many Taiwanese think the pair deserves even more. The Sports Administration has come under criticism not giving them more than the amount stated in the National Honor Prize program.
Under the program, athletes winning gold medals at Olympic Games receive a NT$12 million award, while gold medalists at the Asian Games receive NT$3 million. Since the men’s table tennis doubles events at the Olympics have been replaced by team events, Chuang and Chen can only be awarded prizes using the standard set for the Asian Games medalists in the category. Each ended up receiving NT$900,000 from the program.
Asked if the National Honor Prize award was too little, Chuang said that he would leave this matter to his coaches and would simply focus on playing each game. He said that he and Chen plan to compete in next year’s Asian Games and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Asked about the Paris final, Chen said he had been a bit nervous because he had never competed in such an intense final game before.
“He [Chuang] would pat me on the back and told me to take it easy. He would also teach me how to handle different situations,” Chen said.
He said that aside from the pressure, he also had to cope with an injury sustained in November last year, from which he has yet to fully recover.
Chuang said he was happy and moved by their victory, adding: “It was moment that every athlete is waiting for.”
The 32-year-old lost a chance at the bronze medal in last year’s London Olympics, but said he has managed to come back on track.
“I was sad [after missing the bronze] and rested for five to six days afterward before heading to events in Germany,” Chuang told the Taipei Times. “My personal experience was that time would heal me. I never felt I needed to kick myself for mistakes I made in that game. I knew what my limits were and I was at my peak condition and had done my best. The game did expose my weakness, which was that my performance kind of fluctuates.”