Hong Kong teenager Doo Hoi-kem stuns world No 1 Liu Shiwen in table tennis Olympic qualifying event
Nineteen-year-old beats China star Liu Shiwen in six games to delight home fans
Hong Kong’s young table tennis prospect Doo Hoi-kem took a massive step towards the Rio Olympics on Wednesday as she stunned the world number one Liu Shiwen.
Playing in front of her home fans at the Asian Olympic Qualifying tournament in Hong Kong, Doo – just 19 – had the game of her short career so far against the China star.
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Liu, who has consistently been ranked the best or second-best female table tennis player in the world since 2012, was outplayed 4-2 by her teenage opponent at Queen Elizabeth Stadium.
Doo, ranked 25, raced into a three-game lead but then missed a match point.
She might have wobbled when her much more experienced opponent won the next two, but she closed out the win 11-9, 11-5, 12-10, 10-12, 4-11, 11-7.
“I never expected to beat her,” admitted Doo, who was thrashed 4-0 when they last met in the Asian Cup last year.
“She is the world number one and she is from world powerhouses China, who we never come close to beating.
“My coach told me before the match even if you are going to lose, you have to lose in great style by putting up a close fight as much as possible. We had never thought of such an emphatic result.”
Liu, who also missed the London Olympic Games four years ago, perhaps folded under the pressure of making it to Rio as she had to win in Hong Kong to confirm her place in China’s super-strong Olympic team.
“It’s the coaches who make the decision [on Olympic selection] and I have to work hard in the next couple of months to win their support,” said Liu.
“I didn’t start the game well today, allowing too many chances to the opponent and she also had many lucky balls.”
Each team can send two players in the singles to Rio. It is believed China will award one of the two places from the Hong Kong event and give the other through the world ranking list, which is dominated by mainlanders.
Hong Kong coach Chan Kong-wah praised Doo.
“They thought they could easily beat us and were caught by surprise when Liu suddenly found herself 3-0 down,” said Chan.
“Liu made a comeback after Doo missed the match point in the fourth game, but she was able to hang in there.”
Doo will now take on Jeon Ji-hee, of South Korea.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s Lee Ho-ching overcame her jinx at the stadium as she upset Ai Fukuhara of Japan 4-3 to join Doo in reaching the women’s quarter-finals.
Four years ago at the same venue, favourite Lee was expected to book her Olympic ticket to London but poor performances deprived her of the chance, although she did make it later through the final world qualification.
This time she got off to a flying start to lead Fukuhara, the world number six, 3-0 but then a lapse of concentration by Lee allowed the Japanese player to level the score at 3-3.
“The 2012 scenes suddenly came into my mind and I had to keep telling myself this could not happen again,” said Lee after taking the rubber game 12-10 after deuce.
“I became more aggressive in the final game and took the initiative. It was a great win after losing to Fukuhara six times before.”
Lee said the victory would boost her confidence when she takes on another tough Japanese player Kasumi Ishikawa, the world number four, in the next round. “I have lost all my previous 11 games to Ishikawa but anything can happen now,” said Lee, the world number 22.