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Table tennis star Ai-chan marries Taiwanese boyfriend

Kyodo

Rio Games bronze medalist Ai Fukuhara, who is a national icon of Japan, has tied the knot with her Taiwanese boyfriend Chiang Hung-chieh, who is also an Olympic table tennis player, sources familiar with the matter said Thursday.

Fukuhara had told people close to her that she and Chiang, both 27, would register their marriage after the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, adding she would continue as a table tennis player even after the marriage, the sources said.

Fukuhara, called affectionately “Ai-chan” by her fans, had publicly admitted being in a relationship with Chiang.

She started playing the sport at the age of 3 and Ai-chan soon became a household name in Japan as she became famous as a child table tennis prodigy.

The athlete first competed in the Olympics in the 2004 Athens Games at 15, and has since entered the three subsequent Olympics in Beijing, London and Rio.

Fukuhara was the flag-bearer for the Japanese delegation to the 2008 Beijing Games, and was part of the women’s team which won silver in the 2012 London Games, giving Japan the country’s first Olympic medal in table tennis.

The four-time Olympian is also popular in China, where she played in the country’s top table tennis division Super League as a teenager. Fukuhara is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and has hundreds of thousands of followers on her Weibo micro-blogging account.