Sparkling victory shows Ko still has what it takes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 November, 2009, 12:00am

Former Olympic silver medallist Ko Lai-chak showed at the Asian Championships yesterday that he still has the hunger to succeed despite his advancing years.

The 33-year-old veteran was the only Hong Kong player to take a match from China in the men's team semi-finals - defeating Zhang Jike, China's 2008 national singles champion, 3-1 in the second match. However, Hong Kong still surrendered 3-1 overall and had to settle for a bronze medal.

'People say I may be past my best and should step down because of my age, but I don't agree,' said the left-hander, who clinched a doubles silver medal alongside partner Li Ching at the Athens Olympic Games.

'Age will not do you in, as long as you still have the heart to fight, to excel in the international field - just as I did against Zhang.

'I think I am still as good as many other top players. I have never told myself when I should retire - perhaps after next year's Asian Games in Guangzhou, where I will play in the city where I came from. But I think I still have a number of years left.'

Married with two children, aged two and one, Ko is enjoying his family life. 'Sometime you will be troubled by a defeat, but when you see the faces of the lovely children, you just forget it and tell yourself to do better next time,' he said.

In the women's team event, Hong Kong lost 3-2 to Singapore in a thrilling semi-final. Tie Yana took two points with victories over Singapore's top player Feng Tianwei, the world number five, and Wang Yuegu, the world number 11. However, teammate Jiang Huajun, the world number 10, lost both her matches against the two Singaporeans, both in five sets and after deuce in the rubber set. In between, Lin Ling was beaten by Sun Beibei.

'It was very close,' said Hong Kong team coach Li Huifan. 'The result was not decided until the final rubber match, but Jiang just failed to take the big points.'

The mixed doubles also started yesterday, with four Hong Kong pairs advancing to the third round. The only defeat came when Ko and Tie were beaten 3-2 by Taiwan.