Shin Yubin (18-Korean Air) and Jeon Ji-hee (30-Mirae Asset Securities) have given Korean table tennis a ray of hope. The Chinese pair have given Korea hope that it can make a comeback in world table tennis.
The pair of Shin Yubin and Jeon Jeon-hee lost 0-3 (8-11 7-11 10-12) to China’s Wang Yidi and Chen Meng (ranked seventh) in the women’s doubles final of the 2023 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Individual World Championships in Durban, South Africa, on Sunday.
Despite the disappointing final result, Shin Yubin and Jeon Jeon-hee made history for Korean table tennis. It was the first time in 36 years that Korean table tennis had reached the women’s doubles final at a World Championships since Yang Young-ja and Hyun Jung-hwa won the title in New Delhi in 1987. The entire women’s singles and doubles competition was also the first time a Korean player finished above silver since Hyun Jung-hwa won the women’s singles gold medal in Gothenburg in 1993.
Aside from the women’s doubles team of Shin Yoo-bin and Jeon Jeon-hee, Korean table tennis also had some big wins. In men’s doubles, Jang Woo-jin (Mirae Asset Securities) and Lim Jong-hoon (Korea Exchange) won silver and Cho Dae-sung and Lim Sang-soo (Samsung Life Insurance) won bronze. In total, Korea won three medals: two silver and one bronze. It was the first time since 2003 in Paris (silver in the men’s singles, bronze in the men’s doubles and bronze in the women’s doubles) that Korean table tennis won more than three medals at an individual World Championship.
The silver medal for the pair of Shin Yubin and Jeon Jeon-hee was even more meaningful as they overcame some tough times and hardships. Shin Yubin, who was recognized as a “table tennis prodigy” from a young age, was expected to be the new ace of Korean table tennis at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Injury slowed him down: He withdrew from the Individual World Championships in November of that year with a stress fracture in his wrist. He was unable to compete and train properly afterward. At the beginning of last year, he underwent surgery to put a pin in his wrist bone. It was a vicious cycle of competing internationally and the pain returning. In late September, she underwent another surgery to remove bone fragments.
The constant injuries and surgeries didn’t deter her. Even when she couldn’t hold a table tennis racket, she didn’t stop training. In particular, weight training helped her build up her power and stamina.
At the tournament, Shin showed off her steady defense, unperturbed by her opponent’s attacks. With her physical strength behind her, her concentration was unwavering. With the upgrade in power, he was able to match his opponent’s smashing. His shots were much heavier than before, and he was able to push his opponents back.
Through this tournament, Shin Yubin has gone from being a promising player to a world-class player. “She’s an ‘all-arounder’ that we haven’t had in the national team,” said her partner Jeon Jeon-hee. “I think the women’s team has improved a lot since she joined. I feel like she is creating a different path for Korean women’s table tennis.”
Zheng’s challenge is even more dramatic. Jeon is a naturalized Chinese player. Her original name was Tian Minwei and her hometown is Langfang City, Hebei Province, China. She was good enough to make the junior national team, but making the senior national team in China was harder than a camel going through the eye of a needle. She came to South Korea in 2008 and became a Korean citizen in 2011.
She quickly became South Korea’s leading female table tennis player, but she needed more time to compete internationally, as the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) rules that naturalized players are banned from competing in world championships for seven years.
After a long wait, Jeon made her international debut먹튀검증 and was recognized as a global powerhouse, but there was a jinx. She hasn’t been able to compete in big events like the World Championships or the Olympics. She won a bronze medal at the 2018 World Team Championships. It was painful to watch the Chinese athletes behind her on the podium.
To make matters worse, he suffered a knee injury last year. As she entered her 30s, some people in the table tennis world said that younger players should be given the chance to compete in international events instead of Jeon.
Never one to give up, Jeon blossomed in her table tennis career. She recovered from her injuries and trained intensely, reviving the powerful offense she had shown in her prime. Even her partner, Shin Yubin, was amazed, saying, “I watched her matches with admiration, saying, ‘Wow, wow, wow,'” and “I felt more comfortable playing with her.”
Shin Yubin and Jeon Ji-hee, who have been playing doubles together since 2019, have an unwavering belief in each other that helped them win this silver medal. The 12-year-old duo are fierce rivals in singles, but in doubles, they are partners like no other.
Shin and Jeon have different styles. Shin is an all-around player with solid defense, while Jeon is a classic attacker with a knack for one-beat smashes. Jeon is a left-handed player, while Shin is a right-handed player.
Their combination created a positive synergy, playing to their strengths and complementing each other’s weaknesses. They rely on and encourage each other not only technically but also mentally, making them stronger as a team.
Their belief in each other is also evident in their interviews. Jeon Jeon-hee, who has shaken off her major tournament jinx, said, “I think it was good that I waited until Yoo Bin was older,” and thanked Shin Yoo-bin for raising her well. Shin Yubin, who is still a teenager, finds Jeon Ji Hee more encouraging. “I had injuries and it wasn’t easy in many ways, but having Ji-Hee around made it easier,” he said.
The silver medal at the World Championships has also raised expectations for the Paris Olympics next year. Olympic table tennis does not have a men’s and women’s doubles event. Instead, doubles is included in the men’s and women’s team competitions, which is especially important since it’s the only event in the team competition.
South Korea has won the second most medals in Olympic table tennis in history, after China. Recently, they”ve fallen into a deep slump. In 2016 in Rio de Janeiro and then again in Tokyo, they won no medals in two consecutive Games. Shin Yoo-bin and Jeon Jeon-hee are the hope to save Korean table tennis from the abyss. If they continue to perform well and manage their injuries well, they could lead the resurgence of Korean table tennis at the Paris Olympics.