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

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Lee Sangsu had qualified for the men’s singles event. The trials in fact were only for the team event. Jeoung Youngsik has been confirmed by ITTF to play the men’s singles event at the 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 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
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 Olympics. 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.

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.

An Jaehyun Defeats Lee Sangsu 4-2 on Day 3 Of Korean Olympic Trials

Day 3 of action at the Korean Olympic Trials has completed. Today was the first day of the second round robin between Jeoung Youngsik, Lee Sangsu, An Jaehyun, Lim Jonghoon, and Cho Daesong. The results from this round robin and the first round robin, which was won by Lee Sangsu, will be combined to determine who will represent South Korea alongside Jang Woojin, who was selected via world rank, in the table tennis men’s singles event at the Tokyo Olympics. KTTA streamed the matches of all three tables (update: KTTA later made these links unavailable to the public): Table 1, Table 2, Table 3. Based on these streams, here are the current results from Day 3 of the Korean Olympic Trials.

Jeoung YoungsikLee SangsuAn JaehyunLim JonghoonCho DaesongRR 2 RecordRR 1 RecordTotal RecordPlace
Jeoung Youngsik (WR #13)N/A4-11-02-23-23
Lee Sangsu (WR #22)N/A2-44-21-13-14-22
An Jaehyun (WR #39)4-2N/A4-14-13-02-25-21
Lim Jonghoon (WR #71)1-41-4N/A0-21-31-55
Cho Daesong (WR #141)2-41-4N/A0-22-22-44

The critical match from today’s action was An Jaehyun’s 4-2 victory over Lee Sangsu. Assuming Olympic qualification is based on the combined final record across both round robins (Update: this assumption turned out to be incorrect, as the metric used for qualification ended up being placement in each round robin and not number of total matches won. Lee would go on to qualify for the Olympics even though An won his remaining matches.), with the victory over Lee Sangsu (and an ensuing victory over Lim Jonghoon), An Jaehyun controls his own destiny, meaning that if he wins his final match against Jeoung Youngsik then he will qualify for the Olympics. The match was both high-stakes and thrilling, as An Jaehyun nearly blew a 9-1 lead in the sixth game and required five match points before finally taking the match. We recap the match below. The match begins five hours into KTTA’s Table 1 stream.

Match Recap

Game 1

Neither player could get an advantage for the first half of the game as both player exchanged points over short rallies from strong openings and some regrettable errors from each player. Among these errors was a missed serve by An at 6-6 that gave Lee room to build a 10-7 lead. However, Lee would later then make two critical errors of his own as he caught a net ball at 10-9 but missed the next ball after an out-of-position An gave a soft and high return, and then he missed his own serve at 11-10. At 12-11, it was then An’s turn to lose a game point as Lee gave a surprisingly soft serve return to the elbow that An hit into the net with an ugly backhand. Lee tried a backhand flip to the elbow again 12-12, but An was able to step around early and start a forehand-backhand rally that ended in his favor. An again stepped around at 13-12 to receive Lee’s long fast serve to the elbow, and although he stepped around too early and too far and was out of position, he was able to hit a strong forehand loop that Lee was unable to block, giving An the first game 14-12.

Game 2

An continued stepping around more agreessively in game 2 and alternated between getting into in-position forehand-backhand counterloop rallies that favored An and stepping around too early and as a result getting caught out-of-position by wide blocks from a perceptive Lee. However, after the game reached 7-7, Lee misread a pair of short balls and the position of a half-long to his elbow. Combined with a highlight point by An where he slaughtered a soft forehand opening from Lee with a massive backhand swing, Lee dropped four straight points as An took the game 11-7.

Game 3

In game 3, An got off to a hot 7-2 start as Lee missed his own serve and made two challenges to An’s forehand in the form of a slow long serve and a soft block that were both killed by Ab. Challenging An’s forehand turned out to be beneficial for Lee down the road as An would stop stepping around as much against shots to his elbow. Down 2-7, Lee gave started mixing in several suprisingly soft balls (including a chop block against a long serve) with solid attacks to An’s elbow that An either missed or failed to do much against. Lee sprinkled in a pair of highlight-reel worthy forehand counterloops just for good measure as he went on a 9-0 streak, taking the game 11-7.

Game 4

Lee extended his winning streak to 11 points with a pair of wins in the short game. However, An would win a pair of his points of his own in the short game and go on a three point mini-run that eventually resulted in a 6-4 lead. At 4-6, Lee asked the official to wipe down the table, giving himself a mini towel break. As in the third game, although An built up an early lead from failed challenges by Lee to An’s forehand, Lee would control the second half of the game with well-placed attacks to An’s wide backhand and elbow, going on a 7-1 run, with the only lost point being a missed short push on the serve return, to take the fourth game 11-7.

Game 5

Game 5 returned to the less streaky nature of the first game and a half as players exchanged solid openings and small errors. An built and maintained an early two-point lead, getting help from a net ball at 1-1 and a missed serve by Lee at 2-4. At 6-8, Lee appeared to take a small risk as he stepped around early, and when An flicked it right to where Lee’s elbow previously was, Lee was able to start a forehand-backhand rally that ended in his favor. On the next point Lee appeared primed to level the game to 8-8 but An got an impressive block in from a fast loop to his wide forehand, saving the point and maintaining a lead that ended in An taking the game 11-8.

Game 6

Game 6 got off to a rough start for Lee. First, at 0-1 Lee was able to force an out-of-position An into a forehand chop, but missed the follow up loop. Then at 2-0, An clipped the net in a long rally. Down 0-3, Lee then called time out. The timeout had no effect, as An won the next five points off a missed opening by Lee, a pair of misread serves by Lee, and a pair of beautiful counters by An. After exchanging a pair of points, An had what appeared to be a nearly insurmountable 9-1 lead.

However, Lee then won the rally against two long fast serves by An, An popped up a short serve and failed an overly ambitious forehand kill against a fast long serve to the backhand, the next point ended in a rally in Lee’s favor, and suddenly it was 9-6. An took a short table and requested the table to be wiped down, but after the break, An whiffed an ill-advised attempted backhand kill against Lee’s flick to the elbow, shrinking the lead to 9-7. Each player then split a winning forehand loop against a half-long ball to the elbow, bringing the score to 10-8 An. Lee stepped around for an easy kill against a long fast serve to the backhand from An, An missed a third ball half long from the forhehand, and then suddenly it was deuce.

An would get advantage again with a funky soft rally that appeared to have clipped the net, but then missed a counter as Lee saved a fourth match point. An caught what appeared to be another net on the short push serve return at 11-11, forcing Lee to pop up the ball, which An then put away. At 12-11, clearly a bit nervous, An bounced the ball on the table for what felt like ten seconds before serving a net-serve and the promptly calling a time-out. During the next point, An appeared to be in position to lose his fifth match point as he was forced into a chop in the middle of the rally, but he recovered for the strong step-around forehand loop from the backhand corner and won the rally and the game with a score of 13-11.

Final Score

An Jaehyun defeats Lee Sangsu 14-12, 11-7, 7-11, 7-11, 11-8, 13-11

Match Notes

  • Lee and An have previously never played each other in an ITTF event
  • As mentioned above, assuming qualification is based on combined record across both round robins, An Jaehyun now controls his own destiny and qualifies for the Olympics by winning his final match again Jeoung Youngsik.
  • Under the same assumption, in order to qualify for the Olympics, Lee Sangsu must both win his remaining matches and hope that either Lim Jonghoon or Jeoung Youngsik beats An. This would give him the best record outright. In a two-way tie, An would win the head-to-head tiebreaker since he beat Lee twice. (Update: This assumption was incorrect)
  • Jeoung Youngsik now also controls his own destiny. If Jeoung wins all his remaining matches (including against An and Lee), he would have the best record outright and qualify for the Olympics.
  • Lim and Cho Daesong appear to have been eliminated from contention

Lee Sangsu defeats Jeoung Youngsik 4-0, Wins 1st Leg of Korean Olympic Trials

Lee Sangsu (WR #22) defeated Jeoung Youngsik (WR #13) 4-0 (11-8, 12-10, 11-9, 11-9) in their final match at South Korea’s Olympic trials on Feb 1, winning the first leg of the Olympic trials for the table tennis men’s singles event at the Tokyo Olympics (which ITTF insists will happen). The match was streamed live on Korean Table Tennis Association (KTTA) TV’s Youtube channel and can be re-watched here.

The format for the Olympic trials appears to be two 5-way round robins. The player with the best results across both round robins will represent South Korea in the men’s singles event alongside Jang Woojin (WR #11), who directly qualified by virtue of world rank. ITTF caps the number of players in the singles event at two per country, but a third player may also play as part of the team event. This third player will be selected through coach’s selection. (Update: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Lee Sangsu had already secured a spot for himself in the Olympics. This seems to not have been the case (although Lee eventually did win the trials), and we have corrected the error. We apologize for the mistake.)

It is not entirely clear how KTTA defines "best" or if there is a bonus for winning the first round robin. Nevertheless, by being the only player with three wins in the round robin, Lee Sangsu has put himself in the leading position. We were unable to find posted Day 2 results by KTTA, but based on the posted Day 1 results, the matches streamed on Youtube, and fan-made comments, the final standings should look something like this:

Jeoung YoungsikLee SangsuAn JaehyunLim JonghoonCho DaesongRecordPlace
Jeoung Youngsik (WR #13)N/A0-42-44-04-22-22
Lee Sangsu (WR #22)4-0N/A0-4Win4-33-11
An Jaehyun (WR #39)4-24-0N/A3-40-42-23
Lim Jonghoon (WR #71)0-4Loss4-3N/AWin2-24
Cho Daesong (WR #141)2-43-44-0LossN/A1-35

Note that Lee Sangsu’s win over Lim Jonghoon and Lim Jonghoon’s win over Cho Daesong were gathered from fan-made comments, and Edges and Nets has not yet verified these results.

Match Recap

The match was closer than the 4-0 score may indicate as Jeoung had opportunities at winning each of the four games.

Game 1

Whether due to jitters or for another reason, both players got off to a rocky start in the first game. After requesting to switch balls at 2-3, Jeoung Youngsik was still unable to find a rhythm as he failed to win the point on every single one of his first eight serves, including a missed serve at 4-8. Lee Sangsu missed two serves of his own at 4-3 and 10-4; the second missed serve sparked a mini-run from Jeoung as he closed the gap to 10-8. However, at 10-8, Lee served a fast long ball to Jeoung’s elbow, and Jeoung was unable to step around quickly enough and hit the ball out, giving Lee the game 11-8.

Game 2

Lee’s service woes continued into game 2 as he missed a serve at 1-0. Otherwise, he was in complete control of the first half of the game, building an 8-1 lead, with the only lost point being due to the missed serve. However, with a combination of impressive counters by Jeoung and missed aggressive—perhaps too aggressive—openings by Lee, the lead closed to 3-8, 7-9 and then eventually 10-10. At 10-10, Lee again went for the fast long serve, this time wider to the backhand. Jeoung was able to step around for the forehand opening, but was unable to make it back for Lee’s wide block to Jeoung’s forehand. With the advantage, Lee landed a well-placed serve return to Jeoung’s elbow, which he hit into the net, giving Lee the game 12-10.

Game 3

Jeoung opened the game with a solid service game, building an early 4-1 lead. After two missed openings by Lee and a lucky net-ball by Jeoung, Jeoung was able to further extend his lead to 9-4. However, Lee caught an edge of his own at 9-4, and two solid third-balls and a rally later, the lead was down to 9-8. Jeoung called a time-out but to no avail as Lee won the next point anyway. With the serve at 9-9, Lee again went for two long serves to Jeoung’s backhand. Jeoung received both with a safe backhand opening that Lee aggressively took advantage of, capping a 7-0 run and taking the game 11-9.

Game 4

Jeoung started the game with a series of well-placed openings that Lee failed to anticipate well, giving Jeoung an early 5-1 lead. Despite a missed short push and long backhand opening that cut the lead to 5-3, Jeoung was able to maintain the lead until 8-5 before dropping three straight points to level the game at 8-8. With his final pair of serves in the game, Lee again went for the fast long serve to Jeoung’s elbow, which Jeoung promptly killed with the step-around forehand. After a short net-serve at 8-9, Lee again went for the fast long serve, this time wide to the backhand. Jeoung only managed a soft opening that Lee was able to convert into a point in two shots. At 9-9, Jeoung appeared to try to step around slightly early on both his serves, and Lee took advantage both times with two flicks wide to Jeoung’s forehand, taking the game 11-9 and the match 4-0.

Match Notes

  • At 1-0 in the third game, Jeoung Youngsik had to change racquets due to apparent damage along the edge of his rubber
  • Jeoung Youngsik holds a 6-0 record against Lee Sangsu in international competition, with the most recent win being a 4-0 win in the 2018 Australia Open.
  • Both players represented South Korea at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where Jeoung Youngsik famously came quite close to beating eventual gold medalist Ma Long in a 2-4 (6-11, 10-12, 11-5, 11-1, 13-11, 13-11) loss in the round of 16. However, with the rise of the 25-year old Jang Woojin, only one singles spot remains for Jeoung or Lee.
  • 21-year old An Jaehyun (WR #39) upset both Jeoung and Lee but was in turn upset by Lim Jonghoon (WR #71) and Cho Daesong (WR #141), thereby placing him in the middle of the pack. Had An avoided being upset by either Lim or Cho, then he would have won the round-robin.