Olympics / Summer Olympics / Table tennis

Table tennis star Fukuhara announces marriage to Taiwanese player

Kyodo

Double Olympic medalist Ai Fukuhara on Wednesday announced her marriage to fellow table tennis Olympian Chiang Hung-chieh, who is Taiwanese.

“He’s always there to listen and gives me his undivided attention no matter what state I’m in,” said Fukuhara, 27, who appeared at a news conference in Tokyo in a kimono, as Chiang, also 27, sat next to her.

Fukuhara said they registered their marriage in Tokyo on Sept. 1 and have also filed the necessary documents in Taiwan.

The four-time Olympian expressed her intention to continue competing, saying, “I hope I can be an example to my juniors that one can continue (playing table tennis) even after getting married.”

But she refrained from indicating when she will resume competitive table tennis or whether she will aim to take part in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“I’m very proud to be able to compete on the Japanese national team,” she said. “I hope to work hard (in table tennis) while consulting with family and receiving everyone’s support.”

Known affectionately as “Ai-chan” by her fans, Fukuhara started playing the sport at age 3 and soon became famous as a child table tennis prodigy.

At 15, she made her Olympic debut at the 2004 Athens Games. She was the flag-bearer for the Japanese delegation to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was part of the women’s team that won silver in the 2012 London Games, giving Japan its first Olympic medal in table tennis.

At the Rio Games in August, she took the team bronze along with Kasumi Ishikawa and Mima Ito.

Fukuhara is also popular in China, where she played as a teenager in the country’s Super League, considered the world’s top league. She is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and has hundreds of thousands of followers on her Weibo micro-blogging account.