Taiwan-Japan table tennis couple announce divorce

07/08/2021 08:53 PM
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Chiang Hung-chieh and Ai Fukuhara. CNA file photo
Chiang Hung-chieh and Ai Fukuhara. CNA file photo

Taipei, July 8 (CNA) Japanese table tennis star Ai Fukuhara and her Taiwanese husband, table tennis player Chiang Hung-chieh (江宏傑), formally announced their divorce on Thursday, bringing an end to their four-year marriage.

In a statement released by their management company, HIM International Music, the pair said they had finalized divorce proceedings and agreed to joint custody of their two children.

"We ask that the public respect the privacy of our two young children," the statement said, while also going on to warn of legal consequences for anyone who fabricates or spreads untrue rumors about their split.

The high-profile couple, both 32, began dating after becoming acquainted at table tennis competitions, and got married in Tokyo in 2016. They have a 3-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son.

News that their marriage was on the rocks first broke in March, when the Japanese media reported that Fukuhara had asked for a divorce because of Chiang's alleged verbal abuse.

Fukuhara, who had been in Japan since January, did not deny that she had asked for a divorce, but said a final decision would not be made until she had discussed the matter with Chiang.

Around that time, Fukuhara was photographed with an unnamed male companion in a car and in a hotel in Japan's Yokohama City, sparking rumors that she was having an affair.

She later told the media that the man was a "friend" who was keeping her company to help lift her mood, and denied they stayed in the same room at the hotel.

On March 20, Fukuhara's mother, who had been living at Chiang's home in Taiwan with her grandchildren, flew back to Japan, a move that Fukuhara said was because of her mother's "advanced age and need for care."

The following month, Taiwan's Apple Daily reported that Chiang had recently filed for divorce at Kaohsiung District Court, prompting the couple's managers to appeal to the public to give them space.

Fukuhara, a two-time Olympic medal winner, retired from competitive table tennis in 2018, following the birth of the couple's first child.

Prior to her retirement, she was Japan's top female table tennis player and at one point was ranked world No. 4.

She is also famous in China, owing in part to her fluent Mandarin Chinese, which she learned from playing table tennis in the country from a young age.

Chiang, from Hsinchu, has competed on Taiwan's national table tennis team, and had a peak world ranking of No. 47.

In recent years, he has spent much of his time in show business and currently hosts a TV show, although he has not officially announced his retirement from competitive sport.

(By Wang Hsin-yu and Matthew Mazzetta)

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