DAEJEON, July 21 (Yonhap) -- The magnitude of his table tennis title Saturday wasn't lost on South Korean player Jang Woo-jin, who teamed up with North Korean partner Cha Hyo-sim for a mixed doubles gold medal at an international tournament in Daejeon.
Jang and Cha defeated Wang Chuqin and Sun Yingsha of China 3-1 (5-11, 11-3, 11-4, 11-8) in the mixed doubles final at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Tour Platinum Korea Open in the city, 160 kilometers south of Seoul.
This is the Koreas' first combined title in international table tennis since they won the women's team gold medal at the 1991 world championships in Japan.
Jang and Cha were one of four pan-Korean doubles teams put together at the tournament and ended up as the only champion from the group -- with three other doubles tandems all knocked out early.
"I think this will be the most memorable match of my career," Jang said at Chungmu Sports Arena. "It was an exhilarating experience and a historic occasion."
Jang, 22, said Cha, a year his senior, deserved all the credit for their gold medal.
"I was lucky to have her as my partner," Jang added. "Outside the arena, we got along like friends. And on match days, she showed so much composure and poise as a leader."
The right-handed Jang and the left-handed Cha complemented each other well. Cha offered stability with her serves and returns, and Jang was the attacking force with his powerful drives.
They dropped the first game before winning the next three. Jang said closing out the match in the fourth game, without having to go the distance, was the key. He said he started feeling some pressure during the fourth game but said Cha helped him through the tough stretch.
Jang said Cha teared up after the victory, and he also got emotional, knowing he'd soon have to part ways with her.
"If we combine our teams again in the future, I'd love to play in the doubles with her again," he added.
North Korean players haven't been made available for the media throughout the tournament.
Jang will pick up two more medals at the competition. Hours after winning the mixed doubles title, Jang defeated Jun Mizutani of Japan 4-1 (11-5, 11-9, 9-11, 12-10, 12-10) in the men's singles semifinals to advance to Sunday's final.
Also on Sunday, Jang and his South Korean partner Lim Jong-hoon will play in the men's doubles final against Ho Kwan Kit and Wong Chun Ting of Hong Kong.