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18-year-old Rising as Table Tennis Star

Posted December. 23, 2008 08:14,   


When table tennis icon Yang Young-ja, 44, briefly returned home after leading a group of players from Inner Mongolia in September, she was asked what could raise competitiveness of Korean female table tennis.

Yang said, “Nurturing strong offensive players for the national team is the answer.”

Cho Ha-ra, 18, a two-year player who joined Samsung Life Insurance at the end of this year, fits Yang’s description.

Her powerful serves accompanied with a determined yell are more than enough to intimidate not only her rivals but also spectators. She is small at 161 centimeters (5-feet-2), but her staunch lower half and sharp eyes scare her opponents.

As an all-round player with a right-handed shake-hand grip, Cho is second to none in powerful play and is nicknamed “tank” for her strength.

Her coach at Samsung Life Choi Young-il said, “Her strength might work to her disadvantage at times.”

In other words, powerful play is Cho’s mantra even when she needs to control the strength of her serves and strokes. Fortunately, she can learn these skills while building her career.

Her powerful play is the envy of all of her colleagues not blessed with such resilience.

Cho stood out while attending Gunsan Joongang Girls’ High School. Her school team won all tournaments in 2006, when she was a senior, and she often defeated professional players.

In her first year on a professional team last year, Cho made the national team, the first time since Yoo Ji-hye in 1994 that a player with just one year of professional experience did so.

Though everything seemed to work in her favor, Cho faced a crisis this year. Hyundai Cement, a new team that was her first team after high school, was suddenly dismantled due to management difficulty in October.

Luckily Samsung Life, which had eyed her for quite some time, quickly picked her up. “I had a hard time during the hiatus in my career, but thankfully it didn’t last long,” Cho said.

Samsung Life made it to the final of last month’s KRA Cup Super League thanks to Cho’s outstanding play.

In the semifinal against Daewoo Securities, she outplayed Daewoo’s star player Lee Hyo-shim. The victory was one of the highlights of the season.

Her coach said, “She is a positive influence to the team due to her strong determination and can-do spirit. She has great potential to become a great player with the right training.”

Cho acknowledged the need to improve, but also has big dreams. “I need to work on my service reception. I want to join the national team in the 2012 London Olympic Games and win a medal,” she said.