London, July 31 (CNA) Taiwanese table tennis player Chuang Chih-yuan made history Tuesday when he defeated good friend Adrian Crisan of Romania to advance to the semifinals of the men's singles at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Chuang, seeded fifth in the Olympic tournament, whipped the 15th-seeded Crisan in straight sets, 11-3, 11-4, 11-4, 11-5, to become the first male Taiwanese table tennis player ever to advance to the semifinals at an Olympic Games.
China-born Chen Jing won a silver medal representing Taiwan in the women's singles in Atlanta in 1996, but no Taiwanese male has ever made it past an Olympic quarterfinals.
Chuang reached the round of eight in the men's singles at the Athens Games in 2004 before falling to Wang Hao of China in six sets. He then suffered a surprise defeat in the round of 32 in Beijing.
"I'm very happy, but the tournament isn't over," said the 31-year-old, reflecting a maturity that may have been missing in the past. "I used to be a lot more temperamental. Now I'm more poised, and I'm able to stay calm and constantly think about strategy and deal with challenges."
Tuesday's match presented a special challenge for Chuang because of his friendship with Crisan, developed when they trained together in Germany.
When Chuang first arrived in Germany, it was Crisan who helped him get acclimated to the new environment, and the two ate and practiced together.
Calling Crisan "one of my three best friends," Chuang said the toughest part of the match was getting mentally prepared, both because he was playing a friend and an opponent who knew the ins and outs of his game.
"After thinking about it, I just decided to play my normal game and yell out to psych myself up as I usually do," Chuang said.
After a match in which there was little drama, Crisan made it a point to separate sport and friendship.
"We are good friends, and that hasn't changed," he said after the match and wished Chuang luck in fulfilling his dream of winning an Olympic medal.
Medaling was not on Chuang's mind after his win. He was focused on getting some rest and preparing for his semifinal match, scheduled for Thursday, against the winner of Wednesday's quarterfinal match between second-seed Wang Hao of China and 12th-seed Seiya Kishikawa of Japan.
"Every match in the Olympics is a tough battle. The tournament isn't over," he said. "I'll continue to give it everything I have."
(By Lung Po-an, Sofia Wu and Luke Sabatier)