Rheann Chung is back at the top of the podium. The Trinidad and Tobago table tennis star struck gold in the women’s singles event at the Open des Volcans—Tournoi National B, in Clermont-Ferrand, France, two Sundays ago.

Chung was in uncompromising 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 semifinal round, the five-time Caribbean women’s singles champion dismissed Jade Prevot at 3, 8 and 9. Chung met some resistance in the final, but turned back a spirited challenge from Marine Melquioni to win 11-7, 11-7, 8-11, 11-7.

“I am starting to get back into my routine and the competition mode bit by bit,” Chung told the Express, following her victory. “It felt a little strange but cool because I have not competed a lot during the pandemic and I have not been on a podium since January 2020 when I won the Criterium Federal tournament.”

Chung also competed in an event for players with 1,999 rating points or fewer. The France-based professional fared well, beating four men to advance all the way to the semis.

In the group stage, Chung, who has 1,938 points, got the better of 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 attacker edged past Alan Lecue 5-11, 17-15, 11-8, 9-11, 11-9. And in the quarters, she stopped Quentin Rivollier 13-11, 11-8, 12-10.

Chung’s impressive run ended in the semifinal round, T&T’s best-ever female 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 have won,” said Chung. “I was the only female so it would have been fun to disappoint some men players. I was satisfied with how I handled the women’s singles category, especially since Clermont-Ferrand is an average of 358 metres altitude.”

The day before her women’s singles triumph, Chung competed in the open singles event. In her qualifying group, she defeated Manuel Pieque at 6, 5 and 8, but lost to Kevin Bacquet 9-11, 11-3, 10-12, 7-11. In the round of 32, Chung was knocked out by Adrien Chaneboux, the queen of T&T table tennis going under 8-11, 8-11, 11-9, 6-11.

“I was not satisfied the Saturday in the mixed category because I would have liked to go a little further in the tournament. But the Sunday was much better. I was getting a better sensation, control of the ball, and I was more comfortable on the table.”

On Wednesday, Chung leaves for the ITTF Pan American Championships in Lima, Peru. She goes into action on Saturday in the opening round of the women’s singles.

“I’ll do my best. I played in Peru before at the Pan Am Games 2019. I am going to fight hard, take it match by match, and go as far as possible.”

Chung said she is very grateful for the financial support she received for the Pan Am Champs outing.

“Firstly, I reached out to First Citizens bank for assistance, and they kindly granted my airfare from France to Peru. I wish to sincerely thank them for their kind gesture.

“I also messaged Minister Shamfa Cudjoe concerning my accommodation,” the 2001 First Citizens Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year continued. “She was very receptive. She understood the urgency of my request and guided me to her adviser, Mr Ephraim Serrette who was also very cordial and effective. He transferred my application to the Sport and Culture Fund Secretariat.”

Chung’s application to the Sport and Culture Fund was successful.

“Everything was done smoothly and sharp. I was pretty surprised by the quickness of the process. I also wish to thank the board and the secretariat for their approval and efficiency.

“Other than Anil Roberts, who had previously assisted Dexter (St Louis) and myself in the past, I have not known any sports minister who responds to athletes so quickly.”

The T&T Table Tennis Association (TTTTA) also provided Chung with financial assistance.

St Louis, who passed away in 2019, was Chung’s stepfather and mentor. His death was a huge blow for Chung. She has battled on, though, and is keen for continued success in the sport.

“I would like to compete more especially at the WTT (World Table Tennis) tours to improve my game and world ranking. I am a warrior with lots of passion to play and compete. Like my dad, Dexter taught me, it is very important to take care of myself, and stay fit and healthy,” Chung ended, “to maintain a certain standard of play.”

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