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Taiwanese table tennis veteran turns back the clock at Olympics




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Taipei, July 26 (CNA) Five-time Taiwanese Olympian Chuang Chih-yuan () turned 40 in April, but didn’t look more than 25 for at least half an hour on Monday when he cleared up a disturbance in Olympic men’s singles table tennis.

His stunning 9-11, 11-5, 11-2, 11-2, 11-8 36-minute win over the 13th series and world No. 20 Wong Chun Ting () from Hong Kong propelled him to the round of 16 of the tournament. the furthest he has progressed in all Olympics except finishing fourth in 2012 in London.

Pretty good for someone who vowed not to enter Tokyo in 2019 due to a dispute over coaches and who has looked like an exhausted force in recent years, his ranking plummeted to 26th in the world.

He barely made it through his opening round of 32 games against Horacio Cifuentes, beating the unprecedented Argentine 4-3 to win the last two games in a performance that was anything but convincing.

Chuang lost almost every quick rally against his younger opponent and struggled to defend and position himself well.

Those trends continued on Monday when Chuang, placed 19th in the Olympics, failed to keep up with Wong at the end of the opening match.

The Taiwanese relied on trickery to jump to a quick lead in the second game, using spin and short, well-placed balls to keep Wong off balance, before suddenly finding the fountain of youth.

8-5 in the second game, Chuang would win 27 of the next 31 points to rise 3-1, score winning smashes, keep pace in every rally and get back everything Wong could throw at him.

It was a great display for a player who had been an afterthought before these games started.

And though he lost momentum midway through the final game when a 5-0 lead evaporated to two at 9-7, he closed the game off using a mistake from Wong to advance to the last 16.

Chuang made this run without the help of a coach. His usual coach — his mother — was not part of the three accompanying the Taiwanese table tennis team, so he decided to go it alone, a strategy that has worked so far.

His next match, scheduled for Tuesday evening, will be against the winner of Tuesday afternoon’s encounter between sixth-seeded Mattias Falck of Sweden and 28th-seeded Omar Assar of Egypt.

The 40-year-old has never won an Olympic medal. He came closest in 2012 when he lost a seven-game heartthrob in the bronze medal match against Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

To make it to the medal round this year, Chuang would probably have to get past Falck and second-rate Ma Long () from China, a formidable task.

But for at least one afternoon in Tokyo, Chuang’s play belied his years.

(By Yang Chi-fang, Ko Lin and Luke Sabatier)

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