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Valiant DPR Korean Women Crowned Asiad Table Tennis Team Champions
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With great confidence and a nearly perfect performance, the valiant women paddlers from the DPR Korea gave a shock 3-1 defeat to the all-star Chinese, who had dominated the world's women table tennis events for more than a decade, and were crowned champions in the 14th Asiad table tennis team final here Friday evening.

"The DPR Koreans played an excellent game tonight, but the defeat was not a bad thing for us," commented Chinese head coach Cai Zhenhua. "This match has exposed our hidden problems and we will sure learn from it."

At a press conference after the medal-awarding ceremony, coaches and players of the DPR Korean team said that it was hard for them to express their feelings about the hard-won victory.

The Chinese women's team had beaten the DPR Koreans twice in the previous Asian Games in Bangkok and also last year's Osaka world championships.

"We played very well today, but the Chinese team's performance and physical conditions also appeared to be not so good as usual, especially compared with the previous matches we played, in which they had thrown us out," said the DPR Korean head coach.

None of the team's secretary general, head coach and four players that showed up in the interview room, with gold medals on their necks, gave any apparent sign of overjoy or excitement.

But the head coach said that he was "extremely happy" for the win. "While we were training very hardly, we believed that one day we could win, and the day has come in Ulsan," he added.

Kim Hyang Mi, the DPR Korean player who had taken out world No.1 Wang Nan in a shocking 3-0 straight win in the second match, was undergoing a doping test and missed the press conference.

Actually, in the past 16 years since 1986, the Chinese women only lost the team title twice in major competitions, once to South Korea in the 1986 Seoul Asiad and the other to a joint squad of the DPR Korean and South Korean players in the 1991 world championships.

However, the DPR Koreans' victory was quite convincing as they claimed two points from dual Olympic and world champion Wang Nan, and the other point from China's young star Li Nan, now ranked 4thin the world. China's world No.2 Zhang Yining contributed her team's only victory in the opening match.

The Chinese players played very tensely as their top player Wang, obviously out of form, conceded the second match easily.

Kim Hyon Hui, another key player for the DPR Korea who also beat Wang 3-1 in the critical fourth match, said at the press conference that she had met Wang four to five times in major games previously but had never gained a win.

"But today from the very beginning of the last game I played against her, I had a strong confidence that I would take the victory," she added. Kim won the game 13-11.

Chinese women's team coach Li Xiaodong said that he thought Wang had tried her best during the match, but she might have been affected by her waist injury.

He also expressed regret on Li Nan's losing of the third match, as the young player had led by 8-5 in the deciding game, but only to be overwhelmed at last by Kim Yun Mi 9-11.

"She was still young and was a bit nervous during the intense match," he added.

Wang Nan had refused to give any comment on her defeat after the match.

The final began at 8:10 p.m., delayed by more than three hours due to lengthy semi-finals between the DPR Korean and the Japaneseand the South Korean and Chinese Taipei men.

But Friday turned out to be the Korean's lucky day as both teams from the Korean Peninsular scored three victories in a row.

The DPR Koreans fought for over three hours to conquer their Japanese opponents 3-2, taking revenge for a humiliating preliminary group upset. The Chinese women had finished the other semifinal against Singapore at least one and a half hours earlier.

As Wang and her teammates, looking a bit frustrated, passed Cai, who was circled around by a dozen Chinese journalists seeking comments immediately after the match, the Chinese head coach broke the press encirclement to wave to his paddlers and shout loudly: "Forget it, just play well in the individual events."

"It is very important for them to walk out of the shadow cast by this defeat," Cai explained.

"We had never expected today's defeat, but it should not undermine our self-confidence as we still remain strong contenders for the individual golds," said Li Xiaodong.

(People's Daily October 5, 2002)

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