Rheann Chung is back on the top step of the podium. The table tennis star from Trinidad and Tobago captured gold in women’s singles at the Open des Volcans — National B Tournament in Clermont-Ferrand, France two Sundays ago.
Chung was in a tough mood in the group stage, whipping Amandine Busset Clemente 11-6, 11-1, 11-1 and Chloe Boyard 11-2, 4-11, 11-1, 11-4. In the semifinals, the five-time Caribbean women’s singles champion sidelined Jade Prevot at 3, 8 and 9. Chung encountered some resistance in the final, but fought off a fiery challenge from Marine Melquioni to win 11-7, 11- 7, 8-11, 11-7.
“I’m starting to get back to my routine and competition mode bit by bit,” Chung told the Express after her victory. “It was a little strange but cool because I didn’t compete a lot during the pandemic and I haven’t been on a podium since January 2020 when I won the Federal Criterium tournament.”
Chung also participated in an event for players with 1,999 rating points or less. The France-based professional performed well, beating four men to advance to the semi-finals.
In the group stage, Chung, who totals 1,938 points, beat Amine Rais 8-11, 8-11, 11-5, 11-9, 11-7 and Joshua Eaton 11-7, 14-12, 11-9 In the round of 16, the 36-year-old forward edged Alan Lecue 5-11, 17-15, 11-8, 9-11, 11-9. And in the quarterfinals, she stopped Quentin Rivollier 13-11, 11-8, 12-10.
Chung’s impressive run ended in the semifinals, with T&T’s top player losing to eventual champion Victor Zanella. Chung fought hard, but eventually succumbed 7-11, 10-12, 11-4, 9-11.
“I would have liked to win,” said Chung. “I was the only female so it would have been fun to disappoint some male players. I was satisfied with the way I handled the women’s singles category, especially since Clermont-Ferrand is on average 358 meters above sea level.
The day before her triumph in women’s singles, Chung competed in the open singles event. In her qualifying group, she beat Manuel Pieque at 6, 5 and 8, but lost to Kevin Bacquet 9-11, 11-3, 10-12, 7-11. In the round of 16, Chung was eliminated by Adrien Chaneboux, the queen of T&T table tennis under 8-11, 8-11, 11-9, 6-11.
“I was not satisfied on Saturday in the mixed category because I would have liked to go a little further in the tournament. But Sunday was much better. I had better feel, better control of the ball and I was more comfortable on the table.
On Wednesday, Chung heads to the ITTF Pan American Championships in Lima, Peru. She kicks in on Saturday for the first round of the ladies’ singles.
“I’ll do my best. I’ve played Peru at the 2019 Pan American Games before. I’m going to fight hard, take it game by game and go as far as I can.
Chung said she is very grateful for the financial support she received for the Pan American Fields release.
“First of all, I asked First Citizens Bank for help, and they kindly granted my plane ticket from France to Peru. I would like to sincerely thank them for their kind gesture.
“I also sent a message to Minister Shamfa Cudjoe regarding my accommodation,” continued the 2001 First Citizens Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year. “She was very receptive. She understood the urgency of my request and directed me to her advisor, Mr Ephraim Serrette who was also very cordial and efficient. He transferred my request to the secretariat of the Sport and Culture Fund.
Chung’s application to the Sport and Culture Fund was accepted.
“Everything was done smoothly and with precision. I was quite surprised by the speed of the process. I would also like to thank the board of directors and the secretariat for their approval and efficiency.
“Other than Anil Roberts, who had helped Dexter (St Louis) and myself in the past, I haven’t known a sports minister who responds so quickly to athletes.”
The T&T Table Tennis Association (TTTTA) also provided financial assistance to Chung.
St Louis, who died in 2019, was Chung’s stepfather and mentor. His death was a big blow to Chung. She has struggled, however, and is eager to continue to be successful in the sport.
“I would particularly like to participate in WTT (World Table Tennis) tours to improve my game and my world ranking. I am a warrior with a lot of passion to play and compete. Like my father, Dexter taught me that taking care of myself and staying fit and healthy is very important, “Chung concluded,” to maintain a certain level of play.