Korean Olympic Trials Day 4: Lee Sangsu Qualifies for 2021 Tokyo Olympics

Lee Sangsu won both his remaining day 4 matches against Lim Jonghoon and Jeoung Youngsik and qualified for the Olympics. He will represent Korea in the men’s singles table tennis event at the Tokyo Olympics alongside Jang Woojin, who qualified directly via world rank. Lee’s qualification for the Olympics has also been verifed by several Korean sources. At the time of this posting Day 4 matches can be watched on the KTTA TV Youtube channel, but they may remove the streams from their channels later (they did so for the first three days). The final results of second leg of the round robin were:

Jeoung YoungsikLee SangsuAn JaehyunLim JonghoonCho
Daesong
2nd RR Record2nd RR Place
Jeoung Youngsik (WR #13)N/A2-42-44-1Win (unverified)2-23
Lee Sangsu (WR #22)4-2N/A2-44-14-23-12
An Jaehyun (WR #39)4-24-2N/A4-14-14-01
Lim Jonghoon (WR #71)1-41-41-4N/A4-01-34
Cho Daesong (WR #141)Loss (unverified)2-41-40-4N/A0-45

The final method to determine who would go to the Olympics was to assign a player five points for winning a round robin, four points for winning second, three points for winning third, two points for winning fourth, and one point for winning fifth. The final results across both round robins were thus given by:

1st RR Record1st RR Points2n RR Record2nd RR PointsTotal PointsFinal Ranking
Jeoung Youngsik2-242-2373
Lee Sangsu3-153-1491
An Jaehyun2-234-0582
Lim Jonghoon2-221-3244
Cho Daesong1-310-4125

Although Jeoung, An, and Lim all had 2-2 records in the first round robin, the final rankings for the round robin went Jeoung second, An third, and Lim fourth based on the number of games won in the three way tie. Thus, An only had three points in the first round robin, allowing Lee to eke out a 9-8 advantage in tournament points and qualify for the men’s singles event. In an ironic twist of fate for An (who was undefeated against Jeoung and Lee), had the round robin only consisted of Jeoung, Lee, and An, then An would have won the qualification event as he was undefeated against both Jeoung and Lee.

Note: in our previous recap of An Jaehyun’s victory over Lee Sangsu made the incorrect assumption that final rankings would be determined by overall record and as a result stated that An Jaehyun controlled his own destiny. While An did eventually tie Lee for best overall match record and held the head-to-head tiebreaker, the ranking system described above ended up favoring Lee.

Some fans expressed preference for An over Lee due to a belief that An has higher upside and likelihood of upsetting top players such as during his run to the 2019 World Championship semifinals. However, from a seeding perspective, Korea potentially internally preferred Lee over An. Lee is currently ranked 22 in the world, but players ranked ahead of him include Jeoung, three German players, three Japanese players, and six Chinese players. Since ITTF caps the Olympic singles event to a maximum of two players per country, under the current world rankings Lee would be the fifteenth seed in the tournament. This guarantees he does not need to play either Jang Woojin or a star Chinese player until at least the round of 16. On the other hand, since An is currently ranked 39 and has limited opportunities to move higher over the next few months, he would have only been guaranteed not to play Jang or a star Chinese player until the round of 32.

The final spot in the Olympics will be determined by coach’s selection (likely sooner than later) and will only play in the team event. Korea likely will select Jeoung for seeding purposes as they fight with Germany and Japan for the second seed and a guarantee to not play China until the finals in the team event. Selecting Jeoung over An also puts Korea in a comfortable position to hold at least a fourth seed, thus avoiding China until at least the semi-finals and giving themselves a path to a medal without defeating China.

One of the downsides of the round-robin format is the potential for anti-climatic finishes. This was the case for Day 4 of the Olympic trials as Jeoung had already been eliminated from contention by the time he played his final match with Lee. As a result, there will be no match recap in today’s post.

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