Fri, Oct 26, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Retiring Japanese table tennis star ‘happy’ in Taiwan

By William Hetherington  /  Staff writer, with CNA, TOKYO

Japanese table tennis star Ai Fukuhara holds a bouquet in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Photo: CNA

Japanese table tennis star Ai Fukuhara on Wednesday spoke positively about Taiwan when asked about her life in the nation at a news conference announcing her retirement in Tokyo.

Fukuhara, who moved to Taiwan after marrying fellow Olympic table tennis player Chiang Hung-chieh (江宏傑), had played the sport for 26 years, having started when she was only three years, nine months old.

Fukuhara announced her retirement on Facebook on Sunday.

Having struggled with the decision of whether to retire ever since she competed in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, marrying her then-boyfriend Chiang shortly afterward, Fukuhara said she finally decided in May this year to retire and not to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Table tennis has taught her much over the past 26 years and she has gained lots of experience, she said.

Asked about her life in Taiwan, she said: “The Taiwanese are all so great, I’ve been very happy.”

When asked what her reaction would be if people today referred to her by her childhood nickname “whiny Ai-chan,” Fukuhara said she could not object, because she cried after the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

She hopes everyone can show their support for table tennis players and athletes in general, she said.

Earlier this year, Fukuhara joined Japanese table tennis association T League, which Chiang’s team has joined, as a member of its council.

She said she would continue to assist the association.

At the end of the news conference Fukuhara thanked reporters and said that when she was little it was reporters who taught her to skip rope and to ride a bicycle.

She apologized for having often given reporters the cold shoulder when she was going through her teenage years and said she hopes to be forgiven.

Fukuhara surprised reporters by asking them all to take a picture together with her as a keepsake.

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