They speak Korean. That’s my only point of criticism


Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on October 4, 2014

Bert van ManenWe are quite used to having a Korean World Cup tournament on the calendar now. But that tradition started just a few years ago, in 2007. The country of Hyundai and Samsung has really taken the 3-cushion world by storm. Here’s a short recap of the events where Korea was our host:

2007, Seoul. Vietnamese Quyet Chien Tran became the toast of the tournament when he beat Asian champion Choong Bok Lee in the quarters. Peruvian musician Ramon Rodriguez eliminated Jaspers, another surprise. Tran went on to beat Rodriguez 3-2, and it made him the first ever Vietnamese player in a World Cup final. Daniel Sanchez beat Caudron in the other semi, and he won the final against Tran comfortably: 3-0, averaging 2.250 (1.500 for the Vietnamese).

2008, Suwon. The favorites did not slip up this year, with Blomdahl beating Rudolph, Jaspers beating Forthomme, and Caudron beating S.W. Choi. K.R. Kim joined them in the semi when he beat Sanchez. The “big guy” went a step further by taking three sets against Caudron (1.406 for Kim, 1.805 for Caudron, but we all know that is what can happen in sets). Jaspers first beat Blomdahl, then also Kim in the final: 3-2 (1.918 v. 1.297). A rock solid tournament for the Dutchman.

2009, Suwon. A very high standard of play in 2009, with QF’s between K.R. Kim and S.W. Choi, Caudron and Umeda, Blomdahl and Merckx, and Zanetti v. Tasdemir. Zanetti produced a 3.214 average in the semi against Blomdahl, and then a losing 2.041 average in the final against Caudron, who played at a 2.375 pace.

2010, Suwon. In the strongest season of his career, Jeremy Bury made it to the semifinal. He was joined by Jaspers, Kasidokostas and Tasdemir. Bury lost to the sometimes brilliant Greek, Jaspers got the better of Tasdemir. In the final, both Kasido and Jaspers averaged 2.222, but it was the Dutchman who got three sets to his name.

2011, Suwon. New faces in 2011, with Legazpi, Jae Ho Cho, Choong Bok Lee, Xuan Cuong Ma and Murat Coklu in the quarters, as well as Horn and Blomdahl. The Swede beat Bury in the semi, and Jae Ho Cho made an impression with a 3-1 win (and 2.458) against Ma. In the final though, the elegant game of J.H. Cho came up short against the power of the Swede: 3-0 (2.250 v. 1.666).

2012, Suwon. Blomdahl was on fire in 2012, just look what he did on the final two days. 3-0 against Burgman in the QF, with a 3.461 average. 3-1 against Jaspers in the semi, with 2.764. 3-1 in the final against Zanetti, with 3.055. There is no record for “best last three matches in a world cup”, but if there was, this could well be it.

2013, Guri. Another memorable tournament, and a new star was born: Dong Koong Kang. He beat Tatsuo Arai from Japan 3-1, averaging 2.666, then got past D.N. Ngo from Vietnam in the semi, and won his home World Cup in a glorious final against Daniel Sanchez. The Spaniard had thrashed Bury 40-17 in 10 in the semi, but got a taste of his own medicine in the final: 40-28 in 12 innings. DKK, as we affectionately started to call him, is not yet a player as complete as FC or TB. But if you could isolate and measure “quality of stroke”, he would be near the top of the world ranking list.

Next week (6 – 12 Oct), we will play “Guri, 2014”. In the pre-pre-pre qualifications, there is my old friend and former teammate, 68 year-old Roger van Hoylandt from Belgium. Don’t get too nervous Roger, and please take 5 seconds before you shoot instead of your usual 0.5. I wish you well. Edmund Mevissen, the likeable photographer from Germany will play, as well as Jorge Bastos, tireless promoter of 3-cushion in Portugal. Also in the pre-pre-pre: a certain Semih Sayginer from Turkey. I hear he is very talented. Therese Klompenhouwer is on the list. What will be on her mind? The upcoming Dutch ladies championship, the World Cup in Guri, or the World Championship for ladies in Sinop, Turkey, later in October?

Here’s a final thought about the new wave of Korean and Vietnamese players. Twelve, fifteen new faces on the world stage, one more talented than the other, most of them in their late twenties and thirties. You would expect some of these guys to have a pleasant personality, others to have rougher edges, one in ten to be a “bad boy”. They can’t ALL be gentlemen, can they? But it seems they can. Their behavior at the table is as impeccable as their 3-cushion.  I know it is wrong to generalize, never more so than when it comes to nationality or ethnicity. I’ll break my own rule for once: the Asian players set an example for the rest of the world.