- Hong Kong’s women beat Belarus 3-0 in the world team qualification event in Portugal
- Injured Wong Chun-ting fails to help men’s team, who lose 3-2 to Serbia and face a dogfight for the only remaining Olympic place
Hong Kong's table tennis stars began the Year of the Rat with mixed fortunes as the women's team secured their place at the 2020 Olympic Games, while the men's team will need to rally one more time in Gondoma, Portugal.
The top seeds of the 30-team draw, Hong Kong's women shrugged off any pressure as they beat Belarus 3-0 on Friday at the world team qualification event.
With China, Japan and Germany having secured Tokyo 2020 spots as continental champions or hosts, the world No 3 Hong Kong, along with Chinese Taipei, the second seeds, needed only one victory to book their tickets.
"This is the first time we came across this playing format and are so happy we made it," head coach Chan Kong-wah said. "The women's team has been playing so well and that's why we were seeded first, but the girls still have to prove it on the courts.
"Against the Belarus players, who are strong in their defensive style of cutting play which has always been our weakest point, we needed sufficient mental power to help us through. The first match in the doubles was a big test but once we got through, we were fine and made it with the two following singles."
Hong Kong talent ready to shine in table tennis team Tokyo qualifiers
Hong Kong and Taiwan were both given a bye in the draw and were straight into the round of 16. All quarter-finalists would get their tickets to Tokyo while the eight losing teams would need to go through another round of competition, with the eventual winner securing the only remaining spot.
Doo Hoi-kem and Lee Ho-ching narrowly defeated Daria Trigolos and Nadezhda Bogdanova 3-2 in the opening doubles to secure the all-important first point. Once they got through, the two following singles had little problems as Doo and Minnie Soo Wai-yam beat their opponents 3-1.
Fourth seeds South Korea crashed out of the quarter finals after suffering a 3-1 defeat at the hands of North Korea. But South Korea are still the favourites among the remaining eight teams to secure the last spot.
In the men's team event, Hong Kong were just one step away from emulating their women's counterparts' success only to lose 3-2 to Serbia in the quarter-finals. They will take on Poland in their next match to compete for the only remaining ticket.
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They started the event with a 3-2 win over Singapore but were struggling against Belarus. Lam Siu-hang, who scored two winners in the first match, saved Hong Kong from the brink of defeat as he pulled the best-of-five tie back to 2-2 with his victory over Zsolt Peto in the fourth match. But top player Wong Chun-ting, who was still troubled by a foot injury, could not keep up the momentum as he lost the final match 3-2 to Dimitrije Levajac, and with it the Tokyo spot.
Hong Kong table tennis duo book tickets to Tokyo 2020
All the team qualifiers can also send two players in the singles competition for the 2020 Olympics, while Doo and Wong have already qualified in the mixed doubles as one of the 16 pairs in Tokyo.
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