Bright future for star duo

Bright future for star duo

Two teenage table tennis players are ready to steal the spotlight

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Kenneth Chiu Chung-hei (left) and Christina Lee Ho-ching.
Kenneth Chiu Chung-hei (left) and Christina Lee Ho-ching.
Photo: Kevin Kung
Two aspiring stars of Hong Kong's table tennis scene are shining brightly and this is good for Hong Kong's future. Christina Lee Ho-ching and Kenneth Chiu Chung-hei won silver medals at the 2010 Global Junior Circuit Finals held in Hyderabad, India last month.

Lee, 18, and Chiu, 16, joined the Hong Kong youth table tennis squad eight years go when it was established to help nurture emerging talent. And now their hard work is paying off.

The prestigious, year-end competition attracted the top 32 players - 16 boys and 16 girls - from around the world. Although the China team was absent, the local duo were ready for a tough battle, and in the end, just missed out on the biggest prize.

Lee was beaten by Japan's Kasumi Ishikawa 10-12, 12-10, 7-11, 15-13, 10-12, 11-13 in a best-of-seven-games final, with five of the games going to deuce. "I didn't expect to win so I was relaxed. Although she is very young, Kasumi beat our senior player Tie Ya-na this year and played for Japan in multi-sports events like the East Asian Games last year," says Lee.

Lee, a graduate of Diocesan Girls' School, is very happy with her performance, having claimed several local and overseas titles earlier this year.

"I think I play better at key moments now. My performance last year was unsatisfactory and I have forgotten about it," she says.

Chiu, on the other hand, failed to put up a fight, losing 0-4 to Japan's Masaki Yoshida in the final.

Chiu says getting to the final was a huge achievement because he stopped training for about a month after the 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) held in Singapore in August. He was very disappointed after losing in the quarter-finals of the YOG, the student from La Salle College says. "I was very upset. I didn't know whether I should continue playing table tennis or not."

Both Lee and Chiu are playing in the 2010 World Junior Table Tennis Championships in Slovakia which ends on Saturday.

The pair have had their ups and downs, but they say their greatest honour was to play President Hu Jintao when he visited the Hong Kong Sports Institute in 2007.

Lee, who began full-time training after completing Form Three, says: "When I was in school, it was too hard for me to manage my homework and training. I had to sacrifice my leisure time but then it affected my studies and training." She says she also faced huge pressure in school because her schoolmates and teachers expected her to lead the team to victory. She would win her two matches but her team would end up losing the final 2-3.

"I promised myself that I would play three years first and see how well I could do. I am grateful that I have fulfilled my expectations," Lee says.

Chiu made his name in primary school after beating several higher-ranked players. The media called him the "table tennis genius" in recognition of his achievements in the sport. He was also a torch bearer for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2009 East Asian Games. But the fame almost ruined his career.

"I started to be afraid of losing as I thought I always had to win to prove I deserved my ranking. Every player targeted me and I didn't know what to do," he says. He lost a lot of matches, but the "fear" is gone.

Since his month-long break from the sport, he has won three titles in four tournaments. "The Youth Olympic Games taught me an important lesson. Results don't really bother me anymore," Chiu says.

At the Asian Games in Guangzhou, the Hong Kong table tennis team won a silver medal in mixed doubles. Now, the time could be ripe for Lee and Chiu to steal the spotlight from their senior compatriots.

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