- ‘Late present for New Year’, says coach after men beat Czech Republic 3-0 to ensure trip to Tokyo this summer
- Hong Kong qualify in all five Olympic programmes as men’s team join women’s team and mixed doubles
Hong Kong's men's table tennis team saved their best for last, securing the final place on offer for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by beating the Czech Republic in the World Qualification Tournament in Gondomar, Portugal, on Sunday.
After losing to Serbia in the round of 16 where the eight quarter-finalists all booked their tickets to Tokyo, Hong Kong had to fight for the only ticket remaining and they made no mistake with a 3-0 win over the Czechs in the losers' pool final.
"This is a late present for the Chinese New Year," said a delighted head coach Chan Kong-wah. "The team has gone through a big learning curve, losing in the round of 16 before storming back to the losers' pool final and winning it.
"The entire process has strengthened their mental power and forged team cohesion. Hopefully they can go from here and do better in future competitions including the 2020 Olympics."
Hong Kong secured a team place with the victory and can also send two players to the singles competition in Tokyo as a result of the team qualification, mirroring the women's team, who won their round-of-16 match over Belarus last week.
With Wong Chun-ting and Doo Hoi-kem also sealing their Olympic place as one of the 16 mixed doubles pairs by reaching the semi-finals in the Grand Finals last month, Hong Kong has a full Olympic quota in table tennis.
They have qualified for the team event ever since it was brought into the Olympic programme at the 2008 Beijing Games.
The mixed doubles is added to the Olympic programme for the first time in Tokyo.
While top player Wong was a stand-out throughout the tournament, 21-year-old Ng Pak-nam also caught the eye in helping the team win in both the semi-finals and final.
Having started on the bench and in a support role, he was eventually preferred to teammate Lam Siu-hang in what was a radical team change.
Against the Czech Republic, Ng and Ho Kwan-kit beat Lubomir Jancarik and Tomas Polansky (8-11, 11-4, 11-6, 11-7) in the opening doubles, before Wong downed Pavel Sirucek (11-6, 11-8, 7-11, 9-11, 11-7) to double the lead.
Ng ended matters in style, beating Polansky in straight games (11-7, 11-6, 11-3) to seal the victory.
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