No mercy: Brazilians boo Tang out of the tournament as HK paddler struggles against inspired opponent
Brazilian fans are skilled at booing the opposition without actually booing. And that’s basically what they did to Hong Kong’s Tang Peng in the third round of the men’s singles table tennis tournament on Sunday night
Brazilian fans are skilled at booing the opposition without actually booing. And that’s basically what they did to Hong Kong’s Tang Peng in the third round of the men’s singles table tennis tournament on Sunday night (Monday morning HK time).
Tang’s opponent was Brazil’s fresh-faced 20-year-old Hugo Calderano, 15 years younger than Tang and unseeded but infused with skills and shots he never knew he had; drawn from the energy of the boisterous crowd.
Calderano prevailed 4-2 (8-11, 14-12, 11-7, 4-11, 12-10, 11-7) and admitted later he didn’t really know what he was doing. He didn’t need to know, he had the deafening chorus of song and feet-stomping from the fans, which was so sustained and well-directed, Tang had no doubt they hated him.
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The few boos that did ring out when Tang faced game points were shushed by fans in a token gesture of sportsmanship. The fear was that the boos might have even inspired Tang. Instead, he was simply crushed by the overwhelming love shown to Calderano and utter apathy towards the Hong Kong player’s plight.
“Definitely, I was rattled by the crowd,” said Tang the world number 17 and seeded in this tournament. “I picked up my form quickly in the first game, but the noisy cheering distracted me in the second game. It was difficult to concentrate and I was trying really hard to focus.
“Although our main target is the team event, I was still eager to win in singles. I was not able to adapt to the atmosphere of the venue, including the home crowd.
“But I don’t want to find excuses for my defeat. I knew what it would be like before the match. However, it was beyond my expectations how my opponent played. I’ve never played under these conditions before.
“I think the crowd showed the Brazilian passion. They brought their mode of cheering at the soccer pitch to the table tennis courts. I experienced that and I know why they can excel in soccer now.”
Calderano had to battle through two previous rounds for the right to meet Tang in the third round of the men’s singles.
Despite losing, Tang was clearly the better player. Calderano appeared to be working on adrenaline and using the home crowd to further his cause. He was pulling off shots and saves that was not part of his normal game.
As if to confirm that Brazilians feel no sympathy towards their opponents, Calderano, or “OOOGOH!” as fans call him, admitted there was no mercy.
“I didn’t feel sorry for him at all, I just wanted to win the match,” said Calderano.
When asked where he learned some of the amazing shots that he pulled out of the hat towards the end of the match, he said: “To be honest, in the last two games I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was just inspired by the crowd.”
After Calderano hit the winning shot and they shook hands, Tang was forced to undergo a final humiliation as he walked past the Brazilian supporters on his way to exiting the arena.
This time the fans, whether genuine or mocking, applauded the Hong Kong player as he trudged pass them with his head down, probably thinking: “Now they clap!”
Earlier, Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi-kem fought back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Hungary’s Georgina Pota 4-2 (8-11, 9-11, 14-12, 11-8, 11-9, 11-8) in her third-round match.
She now faces the toughest task of all against China’s top seed Ding Ning in the fourth round.