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(Olympics) S. Korean table tennis coach eyes success in Philippines

All Headlines 17:55 August 02, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 2 (Yonhap) -- For many South Koreans, Kwon Mi-sook is an unknown athlete although she has won medals for the country at international tournaments in the past.

Kwon, 46, is a member of the silver medal-winning women's team at the 1989 World Table Tennis Championships in Dortmund, Germany. Also, she was once women's doubles partner for top South Korean table tennis star Hyun Jung-hwa. But at just the age of 22, Kwon retired from playing and disappeared from people's memory.

In 2016, Kwon has finally returned to the top international stage, but not for South Korea. At the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympic Games, she coaches Ian Lariba, the only table tennis player from the Philippines.

Kwon, who took the helm of the Philippines women's table tennis team in February 2014, is a star in the Southeast Asian country after she helped Lariba to qualify for the Rio Games in April. It was first time ever that the country has sent a table tennis player to the Olympics.

"When I first arrived in the Philippines, the table tennis environment there was really weak," Kwon said on Monday at Riocentro-Pavillion 3, where table tennis players are training. "The country had a national team and players, but it was difficult sending them to international competitions."

For the past years, Kwon said she pushed the athletes with rigorous training, working from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Lariba was her top pupil as she worked to move up her ranking into the world top 200. Although the 23-year-old Filipina is not expected to win a medal in Rio, her entering the Olympics is already a big achievement. Lariba is even selected as a flag bearer for the Philippines.

Kwon, however, said this is just beginning of her coaching career in the Philippines.

"I first want our players to win medals at the South Asian Table Tennis Championships next year," she said. "I also want to coach some male players, too."

Kwon said she is looking to spend the next 10 years with the Philippine table tennis team, adding that she wants to engrave her name in the country.

"Just like South Korean basketball star Shin Dong-pa, I want my name to be recognized in the Philippines with table tennis," she said.

kdon@yna.co.kr
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