Hong Kong women outlast Austria in thriller
Hong Kong women's team came back from the brink of defeat to beat Austria 3-2 in an epic three-hour group C match at the world team championships in Guangzhou last night.
The SAR's top paddlers Tie Yana and Jiang Huajun lost in the first two ties to Liu Jia and Li Qiangbin 3-1 and 3-2 respectively, before Lin Ling pulled one back with a 3-0 win over Veronika Heine.
Jiang and Tie then clinched victories in the reverse ties 3-1 and 3-0 to give Hong Kong a narrow win and remain unbeaten in the group.
'We were too conservative in the initial stages, while Austria threw everything they had into attack after losing to Germany in the afternoon,' said women's coach Li Huifen.
'The same situation happened at last year's World Team Cup before we came back from two points down to beat Austria.
'In fact the two teams are very evenly balanced and I was not surprised at how tough it was. '
Earlier in the day, the women's team defeated Spain 3-0, while the men's team, comprising Li Ching, Cheung Yuk and Leung Chu-yan, cruised to a 3-0 win over Greece in group D.
In another women's match, hosts and clear favourites China suffered their first defeat in a tie against North Korea when two-time Olympic champion Wang Nan was beaten 3-1 in the opening match against Kim Jong in group A.
But the mainlanders still came back to register a 3-1 win in the match, thanks to victories from world number one Zhang Yining, who collected two points against the North Koreans, and up-and-coming Li Xiaohua. China suffered no hiccups in the afternoon, despite playing without Wang.
Li, Guo Yue and Guo Yan whitewashed Croatia 3-0, dropping just one game along the way in a tie that lasted slightly over an hour. Wang has been nominated by the Chinese authorities to take part in next week's Olympic continental qualifying tournament in Hong Kong, which means she is likely to secure the mainland women's team's third and final berth for the Beijing Games.
But her chance could now be jeopardised following her disappointing performance in Guangzhou. Officials had already said they would make a decision on the player for the Hong Kong event only after gauging performances at this world event.
Hong Kong men's coach Chan Kong-wah said the real test was yet to come for his team. 'The match against Denmark tomorrow and the following day's match against the group top seeds Singapore will be crucial,' he said. 'We have to finish top of the group in order to get an easier draw in the knock-out stage.'
The coach singled out the Danes' Michael Maze, who collected two points against Spain yesterday, as the danger man. Denmark won 3-2 over the Spaniards. 'He is a top-class player from Europe and the key player on the Danish side,' said Chan.
'But luckily, his fellow players are not of his standard.'