VIERSEN - Two star players representing Korea were all smiles as they stood on the podium during the honor ceremony of the world championships for national teams in Viersen, this Sunday afternoon. The 39-year old Sung-Won Choi and 44-year old Jae-Guen Kim won the first world team gold for a Korean national twosome. Their victory over Belgium in the final (40-34 in 24 innings) was broadcast live in their home country, with more than 1.2 million people watching. The new champions were over the moon, in the aftermath of the event. ,,This was one of the main missions, to win this championship for our country. The pressure was higher than ever, because never before was there such massive support. We leave Germany as world champions, and we will be welcomed in South Korea as world champions.''
For Sung-Won Choi, this was his second world title, after his win in the individual event in 2014. The win over the Belgians was created in the later stages of the match. A first attack by Choi and Kim came in the fifth inning, with a run of 9. The match then went neck and neck for quite a while, with scores like 21-21 and 25-25. Then the Koreans ran a 4 and a 6, to create the gap.
Frédéric Caudron: ,,We have failed to cash in on a few chances, and the Koreans are strong enough to punish that.'' Roland Forthomme: ,,I have never felt at ease in this match. The positions I left for Caudron were often very difficult, and it made it hard for us to make a high run.''
The Belgians, who were able throughout the tournament to find an extra gear, could not do that in the final. Sung-Won Choi: ,,We stayed cool in the final stages, in spite of the pressure.'' The final Korean point, followed by Forthomme's miss in the equalizing inning, brought on an ecstatic joy. The two Koreans embraced, softly sang along with their national anthem and then shook hands to no end.
The podium was completed by the players from the Netherlands (lost to Belgium in the semi) and the French (strong event, but lost to eventual winner Korea). The tournament, for the first time in Scotch Double format from the first day, had a hesitant start with some skepticism felt in the stands. On day two, as the stronger countries entered the arena, the averages and runs rose along with the tension.
The World championship closed with the Koreans on top of the podium
Sung-Won Choi, individual world gold in 2014, now the team gold with Korea
The highlight on the way to the finals, undoubtedly, was the Belgian run of 20 in the semi against Germany A. The Dutch made the best impression in the group stage with 2.051, ahead of Turkey with 1.739, Sweden with 1.666, Germany A and Belgium with 1.509. The teams from Colombia and the Czech republic missed out on the quarterfinals, in spite of their excellent averages of 1.702 and 1.604.
Netherlands A performed a minor miracle against Netherlands B, making up from 23-6 behind with 34 points in 8 innings. The French made it to the quarters with a small win over Denmark (40-39) and South Korea qualified thanks to a better average, having drawn with Egypt.
UMB-president Farouk Barki announced during the tournament that next year's event will again see changes. The number of participating countries will be reduced from 24 to 16. In that format, there will be preliminaries with four flights of four teams. The flight winners and the nrs. 2 will advance to the quarterfinals.
Belgium - Netherlands 40-30 in 20.
In the early hours of Sunday, the Dutch team of Dick Jaspers and Jean van Erp must give up their world title. The reigning champion gets beaten fair and square by Belgium that dominates the derby of the low countries. Dick Jaspers, after the match, was clear in his comments: ,,We have played a strong tournament, but in this match we did not have the run of the ball.''
He still emphasizes: ,,I am proud of my teammate Jean, who has given his all for every single point.'' Jean van Erp: ,,We missed two makeable shots at key moments in the match, and the Belgians capitalized on it.''
,,It is sad to say goodbye to this world title'', says van Erp. ,,We had a taste of it, and then you want more. But we did not play a bad event, and I am happy to be on the rostrum once again.'' The Netherlands did have the better start (11-6, 15-8 and 21-14), but after the break, the Belgians found a higher gear. Roland Forthomme: ,,We stayed true to our game, and waited for an opening.'' It came in the later stages, and the Belgians ran 5, 7, 6 and 3 to lead comfortably: 36-27 and an eventual win of 40-30 in 20.
The team picture before the derby starts: Roland Forthomme, Frédéric Caudron, Dick Jaspers and Jean van Erp
Talking about the match, Frédéric Caudron and Jean van Erp
Dick Jaspers and Jean van Erp discuss the position
South Korea - France: 40-30 (27)
Two of Korea's star players, living in opposite area's of the country, some 400 km apart, start the day with the ambition to write history. Three cushion's promised land wants to fill that ugly blind spot on their palmares. The Koreans have never won the WC for national teams.
Sung-Won Choi and Jae-Guen Kim take a giant step forward in their semi against France. A good lead (17-6) then gets nulled by Jérôme Barbeillon and Cédric Melnytschenko. Both teams are locked at 27-27, but a run of 6 by the Koreans in the 20th inning proves relevant. From 35-30, the Koreans win 40-30 because the French are unable to score in the equalizer.
They can say goodbye with their heads held high, the French beat the Swedes in the quarters, and have played an outstanding event. What did the Koreans have to say about their strategy? Sung-Won Choi and Jae Guen Kim: ,,We have not practiced together, but we did talk on the phone frequently to discuss tactics. The main thing is the team spirit. We lift each other up after every miss, and we keep fighting till the end.''
The Koreans and the French team before the start of their semi-final: Jae Guen Kim, Sung-Won Choi, Cédric Melnytschenko and Jérôme Barbeillon
Sung-Won Choi and Jae Guen Kim show their joy to the Kozoom camera
Roland Forthomme and Frédéric Caudron, happy with the silver medal
Jérôme Barbeillon, Dick Jaspers, Jean van Erp and Cédric Melnytschenko
Jérôme Barbeillon, last performance after a great tournament with the French team
Final standings: (average and high run):
1 South Korea 1.515-9
2 Belgium 1.701-20
3 Netherlands A 1.923-10
3 France 1.269-14
5 Germany A 1.628-13
6 Sweden 1.575-9
7 Turkey 1.424-9
8 Netherlands B 1.267-6
9 Egypt 1.311-6
10 Colombia 1.604-7
11 Czech Republic 1.604-7
12 Greece 1.296-9.