Hong Kong earned a 2020 Olympic Games ticket in table tennis on Thursday when mixed doubles pair Wong Chun-ting and Doo Hoi-kem reached the semi-finals at the World Tour grand finals in Zhengzhou, China.
Four Olympic tickets are up for grabs at the year-end tournament, where the Hong Kong pair are seeded first after capturing two other World Tour titles this year.
They had to overcome a shaky start against Lubomir Pistej and Barbora Balazova of Slovakia in their do-or-die match before snatching a 3-0 victory. The Hong Kong pair was trailing 8-0 in the opening game but fought back to take it after deuce 12-10, which was followed by two more games - 11-9 and 11-7.
"Wong still has a twisted ankle and hasn't trained for two weeks, but we couldn't afford to miss it because it involved an Olympic ticket," said head coach Chan Kong-wah. "They came across some big difficulties in the opening stages, but, thanks to their mental strength, they overcame the problems."
"Now with an Olympic ticket in our hands, we feel much relieved and hopefully more will come."
Mixed doubles is a new event in the Olympic programme, with each team fielding only one pair in Tokyo next summer, which is meant to make it more exciting and unpredictable. There will be 16 teams in the Olympics. China and Taiwan also qualified by reaching the semi-finals in Zhengzhou, along with Olympic Games hosts Japan.
The pressure will grow as time goes by and therefore our target is to get it done at the grand finalsChan Kong-wah
If Hong Kong fail to make it this time, there will be two tickets available at the German Open as well as the Qatar Open early next year. The 2020 Japan Open champions can also gain one, while the remaining slots will be allocated to each champion of the regional qualification tournaments in April.
"The pressure will grow as time goes by and therefore our target is to get it done at the grand finals," Chan said. "Now we can set our sights on the team qualification and see what will happen."
Nine teams in the men's and the same number in the women's will obtain Olympic tickets in the world qualification event in Gondomar, Portugal, next month. Each qualified team can also send two players in the singles events. Hong Kong women's team are fourth in the world rankings and stand a great chance of reaching the top nine in Portugal, while the men's team, now in 14th place, will need to improve dramatically if they are to qualify.
So far, Hong Kong has qualified for the Tokyo Games in swimming, windsurfing, gymnastics, cycling and equestrianism with 11 tickets.
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