In this union, nothing's off the table

Japanese star Ai Fukuhara and husband Chiang Hung-chieh showing off their custom-made wedding rings, engraved with table tennis balls, at a news conference in Tokyo to announce their marriage. Chiang, her fellow Rio Olympian from Chinese Taipei, desi
Japanese star Ai Fukuhara and husband Chiang Hung-chieh showing off their custom-made wedding rings, engraved with table tennis balls, at a news conference in Tokyo to announce their marriage. Chiang, her fellow Rio Olympian from Chinese Taipei, designed the rings.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • Japanese table tennis star Ai Fukuhara yesterday announced her marriage to Chiang Hung-chieh, a Chinese Taipei paddler.

The couple made the announcement at a press conference, saying that they were married on Sept 1 in Tokyo after the Rio Olympics.

Fukuhara thanked her fans for their support and suggested that she would continue her athletic career after her marriage.

"Most female athletes in Japan give up their career after marriage. But Chiang's support makes me feel that I can continue my career even after our marriage," she said, adding that she wants to show the younger generations of Japanese female athletes another option.

The 27-year-old sports star was regarded as a child prodigy in table tennis in Japan. She went to China, which has been dominating the sport for decades, to be trained at a very young age.

World No. 9 Fukuhara, who as a result can speak fluent Mandarin, is well known in China and has a huge number of fans there too.

"I proposed to her after the Rio Olympics when I got a chance," the 27-year-old Chiang, ranked 79th, who also competed in Rio, told reporters in Tokyo. "With regard to the way I proposed, I actually gave her a key and hoped that she would be an owner of our home."

The Japanese women's table tennis team, led by Fukuhara, claimed a bronze in Rio.

But she was shocked 4-1 by 26th-ranked North Korean Kim Song-I in the singles third-place play-off.

XINHUA, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2016, with the headline 'In this union, nothing's off the table'. Print Edition | Subscribe