1952 — The Year Grandpa Beat Three World Champions

Part 1 of a personal project to learn more about my grandfather’s years as an international table tennis star

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Fig. 1 — “Sih Su Cho making a characteristic forehand smash.”

The Perfect Strawberry Milkshake

For a number of years, my grandparents split time between living in Hong Kong and with us in Canada. While here, part of grandpa’s doting on me included making sure I ate fruit every night. He didn’t miss a single day. Some time after dinner and before bed he would bring a plate of fruit up to my room, everything peeled and nicely sliced.

A Self-Taught Table Tennis Master

With table tennis, my mother informs me that grandpa never had a coach. He taught himself. This must have involved lots of trying things, lots of practice, and lots of adjusting of details in order to get better and better, just like the strawberry milkshake.

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Fig. 2 — Sih Su Cho demonstrating table tennis techniques using a “penholder” grip. Without a coach, he had to rely on a lot of self-teaching to develop his techniques.
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Fig. 3 — An advertisement for a table tennis bat suited to Sih Su Cho’s playing style. The handle is very short to accommodate the “penholder” grip he used. There is rubber on just one side of the bat because he never hit the ball with the other side. Modern rules require rubber on both sides of the bat, and many current “penholder” style players strike the ball using both sides.

1952 — The Pinnacle Year?

All of that practice and being attentive to detail paid off in grand style in 1952.

FEBRUARYWorld Championships Team Bronze

In February of 1952, grandpa represented Hong Kong at the World Championships which were held in Bombay that year. In singles, he made it to the 4th round, losing there to the eventual silver medalist. However, in the men’s team competition he helped Hong Kong earn a bronze medal.

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Fig. 4 — Hong Kong men’s team (year unknown). Sih Su Cho is second from the right.

AUGUST-SEPTEMBERTouring With The Champs

During August-September of 1952, former singles world champions Johnny Leach (1949 and 1951) and Richard Bergmann (1937, 1939, 1948, and 1950) went on a tour of east Asia. My grandfather and his doubles partner, Fu Chi Fang, joined them for part of their trip. The four ping pong stars put on many exhibitions during this tour.

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Fig. 5 — Sih Su Cho and two-time former world champion Johnny Leach at Southorn playground in Hong Kong
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Fig. 6 — Johnny Leach and Richard Bergmann, six singles world titles between them, lose in an exhibition match to Sih Su Cho and Fu Chi Fang during a visit to Singapore. Each H.K. star beat each English star in singles; the English pair avoided the sweep by winning the doubles match.

NOVEMBER — Triple Gold, Silver At Inaugural Asian Championships

The inaugural Asian Table Tennis Championships were held in Singapore in November of 1952. In singles, my grandfather would make it all the way to the finals where he went up against the reigning world champion, Hiroji Satoh of Japan, who won the worlds earlier in February:

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Fig. 7 — Snapshot from the Feb. 1953 issue of ‘Table Tennis’ magazine by the English Table Tennis Association (ETTA), reporting on the 1952 Asian Championships
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Fig. 8 — Sih Su Cho with some of his trophies.

The Mystery Of 1953

1952 was a successful year in table tennis for my grandfather. Some had him ranked 10th in the world, and that was before he beat reigning world champion and #1 ranked Satoh.

High school math, science, physics, and special education resource teacher and basketball coach

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