Whatever Happened to Ping-Pong's Romeo and Juliet?

      January 08, 2008 08:07

      Jiao Zhimin

      News in 1989 that former Chinese women's world table tennis champion Jiao Zhimin would tie the knot with Korean national ping-pong player An Jae-hyung shocked the nation. It was a time when Korea and China were still enemies without any formal relations. Naturally their marriage became the talk of the town and was carried out amid secrecy worthy of a spy movie.

      Having won the gold medal in a single game in the 1986 Asian Games, and silver in the doubles and bronze in a singles game in the 1988 Seoul Olympic, the then 26-year-old champion retired after her marriage. After a long absence, she has returned as a successful business woman.

      Jiao Zhimin was extremely busy when the Chosun Ilbo visited her at her company Quantiantong, a telecommunication value-added service provider, in Beijing late last year. During the hour the reporters spent with her, she signed 20-30 papers and took some dozen phone calls. She apologized for that, saying, "Since this is the end of the year, there is so much business I have to take care of."

      Having started the company in 2004, she has grown it into a successful mid-sized business with 120 employees and annual sales of W5.5 billion (US$1=W939). In just four years, her company has succeeded in signing contracts with China's four major telecommunication companies to provide service.

      After resigning as the coach for the Korean Air table tennis team, her husband is now in Florida to support their son, who wants to be a pro golfer. "We were in a situation where one of us had to quit our career to stay with our son, and he volunteered to do it. I think I'm lucky to live with a man like him." Jiao says. Busily traveling to Korea and China for business and the U.S. to meet her family, she is devoting herself to doing well both as a businesswoman and a mother and wife.

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