Home pair crown exhilarating debut for table tennis

It’s difficult to believe given its global popularity and appeal to all age groups that table tennis only took its Olympic bow at the 1988 Games in Seoul.

With the sport making its first appearance in Asia the scene was set for the continent to grasp control of the competition.

The debut final was indeed an all-Asian affair but not the one most observers were expecting at the National University Gymnasium in downtown Seoul.

China’s Jiang Jialiang was the top seed, had twice been crowned world champion and was the red-hot favourite to take inaugural gold.

However this was a competition where almost nothing went to plan.

Jiang took the opening game against Sweden’s Erik Lindh but then began to unravel. Lindh, the 10th seed, reeled off the next two games before edging Jiang 22-20 in a nailbiting finale.

Lindh’s Swedish team-mate Jan Ove-Waldner, who took the gold in Barcelona four years later, also lost in the quarter-finals while other European seeds were scattered by the wayside.

The upsets contrived to put home players Yoo Nam-kyu and Kim Ki-taik into the final, and the match proved a fitting finale to an exhilarating tournament.

Kim won the opener 21-17 in a match of the highest quality. Yoo levelled after a 21-19 win in the second and he went 2-1 up with a comfortable 21-11 win in the third.

The best was reserved for the end though with the rallies being played at breakneck speed.

Yoo edged 22-21 ahead and a wayward forehand from Kim earned the victory which sparked pandemonium among the fiercely partisan crowd.