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Champion Ryu set for China onslaught
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"I've been playing a lot of overseas events of late and I am a bit tired. But I need to get a good seed at the Olympics so I am forcing myself through these tournaments. But I have no injuries to speak of at this moment."

Along the way, Ryu, known for his fast footwork and explosive forehand loops, has clinched the Chile Open, his third singles title on the Pro-Tour, and his first since Athens.

But his victories pale in comparison to the triumphs of China's heavyweights - Wang Hao, Ma Lin and Wang Liqin - who have won every major title.

Wang Liqin is a three-time world champion, Ma, a four-time World Cup winner, while Wang Hao - the young paddler that Ryu defeated in Athens for gold - has been the world No 1 for nine straight months.

Their astonishing records, which are equally impressive on the women's side, are an acute reminder of China's near stranglehold on the sport.

Ryu has rarely beaten Wang Hao, now 24 and seemingly with nerves of steel, in their numerous encounters since Athens. And he knows that any rematch in Beijing will be extremely difficult.

"I am trying," Ryu said with a laugh, of his attempts to defeat Wang, who won six titles alone last year.

"I know Wang is the best player in the world and is showing great form. But he is human too, and he can be beaten."

Their recent clashes have all gone China's way: Ryu was downed 4-2 by Wang in the Korean Open quarterfinals in May, and he was thumped 4-0 by the world No 1 in last year's World Cup final.

But the South Korean won respect for his gritty performance on the road to the final. He downed world No 4 Wang Liqin 4-2 just hours earlier, after sending world No 2 Ma packing 4-1 the day before.

Satisfied with his form in the run-up to Beijing, the South Korean is upbeat about his chances.

"I am confident of defending my gold medal but winning an Olympic gold requires more than just confidence or your abilities. Obviously, China is the nation to beat at table tennis and I am trying to challenge them," he told AFP.

"(And) I'm going to Beijing as the chaser, not the chased."

(Agencies via China Daily July 24, 2008)

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