Olympian Jiang Huajun's recovery from a slow start was a key factor in revitalising Hong Kong's medal hopes and helping the women's table tennis team finish top of their group to reach the quarter-finals at the world championships in Dortmund, Germany.
Jiang, who has qualified for the 2012 London Games along with Tie Yana, struggled in the opening stages, losing matches to players from Czech Republic, Austria and Russia, but the 27-year-old right hander regained her touch as the tournament progressed. She won both her matches against South Korea and helped Hong Kong to a 3-2 win in a crucial tie. She followed up with a strong performance and a 3-0 victory in the final group match against Croatia that put Hong Kong directly into the last eight.
Only the top team in each of the four groups moves directly to the quarter-finals, while second- and third-placed teams have to go through an extra elimination round to get into the quarter-finals.
'It was important she regained her form in time or it would have been difficult for us to finish on top of the group,' said coach Li Huifen. 'She has overcome some adaptation problems and a fit-again Jiang is vital to our medal quest.'
Hong Kong missed out on a medal at the last team world championships and will try to make amends today when they meet Netherlands or Austria. Hong Kong won silver in 2004 and 2006 and bronze in 2008.
'Our target is very clear. We came to Dortmund to win a medal and boost our confidence ahead of the Olympic Games,' said Li.
Hong Kong's men failed to reach the quarter-finals after losing to Taiwan 3-2 last night. They will now have to compete in the 9th to 12th playoff.