Korea Victorious Over Japan in Billiards
The South Koreans defeated the very strong Team Japan in the 3rd Annual MBC ESPN Korea vs Japan 9-Ball Championship. The two previous events had Korea defeating Japan 9-6 and then Japan coming back to defeat Korea 9-7 the following year. This time both teams changed their line-up which made for some very interesting matches. Korea was made up of World Games Gold Medalist Jeanette Lee, US Open Semi-Finalist Yu Ram Cha, Korea Junior Champion Kang Lee, and 2007 Korea Pro Tour Champion Hyeon Ho Kim (Charlie Williams) . Japan sent their best team yet with two top 5 men ranked players Yukio Akakariyama and Yosihiro Kitatani , along with Japan #2 women’s player Yukiko Hamanisi and 8x Japan #1 Akimi Kajitani. The event would be the first team to 7 matches and aired live on MBC ESPN.
The race to 3 format was short and exciting for the packed Korean audience. Korea and Japan has had a long, deep rivalry that few countries can match. As traditional to soccer, Japan wore blue while Korea wore red. The first match started with the 4-on-4 scotch quadruples and the South Koreans played in near perfect sync. Rookie pro player Kang Lee, only 18 years old, came on strong making crucial tough shots to gain the confidence of his fellow more experienced teammates. Korea took the first match win a 3-0 shut-out. Next was a singles match between Kim (Williams) and Akakariyama in which both players made no mistakes save for Yukio’s one scratch off the break. Kim took advantage for a 3-2 win to push Korea ahead 2-0.
The Black Widow Lee re-matched with Kajitani from two days before, but with the same result as she won 3-0 to put Korea at 3-0 over Japan. Finally Japan got on the board when Kitatani defeated Cha 3-1 in the Man vs Woman match-up. In the mixed doubles, Japan showed continued life when Kitatani and Haminishi won 3-1 against Lee and Lee. Japan closed the gap to 2-3 Korea.
Another 4-on-4 match-up saw Team Korea again dominate in perfect unison 3-1 and then Cha crushed Haminishi 3-0 in the women’s singles to put Korea up 5 to Japan’s 2. The mixed doubles seemed to favor the Japanese as this time Akakariyama and Kajitani stopped the momentum with a 3-1 defeat of Williams/Cha. Haminishi and Kajitani then kept up the rhythm with a 3-1 defeat of Cha and Lee. Japan 4 and Korea now 5.
In a crucial match to where Japan could tie the score or Korea could go onto the hill, another 4-on-4 was scheduled and for the third straight time Japan had no answer for the Koreans in All Team play as they suffered another loss at 3-1. Korea was now on the hill 6-4.
“It’s Japan versus Korea and Charlie Williams!” commented Kajitani referring to Kim(Williams) key role in coaching the team play decisions as well as important playing during the 4-on-4 matches. Players were allowed to coach one another and decide order changes each rack to allow more strategy in the games.
The losing team had the option to play men’s doubles team against women’s doubles team , so Akakariyama and Kitatani faced Lee and Cha in order to bring the team score within one. So far the Koreans had won all the 4-on-4s, but had lost every doubles match. The pressure was great on the two Japanese men as their country’s hope rested on their shoulders, and the two men both made unforced errors. Cha and Lee took advantage of the mistakes and sealed Japan’s fate with a 3-1 win and overall 7-4 score to put Korea back on top of Japan for 2008.
“I was really happy to see such a strong team from Japan this year. It made the games more exciting and Korea’s win much more meaningful.” explained Jin Hee Ahn, sportscaster for MBC ESPN.
“The fans were really great and both teams played hard and fair. I really enjoy team competitions because you experience things that are so different than singles.” said Charlie Williams. Williams had a 4 wins and 1 loss record in the event.
The Korean Dragon was the MVP of the event with a 4-1 record
Both Japan and Korea teams enjoyed a delicious Korean BBQ dinner with Korean Soju whiskey.
The MBC ESPN 3rd Annual Korea vs Japan was sponsored by Sopooong Department Store, Tony Moly Cosmetics, and Ra Beauty Salons. Official equipment sponsors are Simonis Cloth http://www.iwansimonis.com/, Vigma Balls www.vigma.com , Min Tables, Poison Cues www.poisonbilliards.co.kr , and Predator Cues www.predatorcues.co.kr