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‘Japanese doll’ Ai Fukuhara – Chinese netizens’ favourite table tennis star – marries Taiwanese fellow Olympian

Ai Fukuhara, the Japanese table tennis player who has become a darling of Chinese netizens, has married a Taiwanese fellow player.

The 27-year-old, who is hugely popular on the mainland because of her fluent Putonghua and participation in China’s Super League, is often referred to as ‘Japanese Doll’ by fans there.

She has more than two million followers on Weibo and during the Olympics some were urging her to marry a Chinese man.

On Wednesday she revealed that she tied the knot on September 1 with fellow Olympian Chiang Hung-chieh of Taiwan.

Why don’t you marry a Chinese man? Netizens ask Japanese star Ai Fukuhara

“I proposed to her after the Rio Olympics when I got a chance,” said the 27-year-old Chiang, who also competed in Rio.

“With regards to the way I proposed, I actually gave her a key and hoped that she would be an owner of our home.”

A post Fukuhara made on Weibo announcing the engagement had more than 350,000 likes on Thursday morning.

Fukuhara, now 27, competed in her first Olympics in 2004 when she was 15 years old.

The pair showed off their custom-made wedding rings, engraved with table tennis balls, which were designed by Chiang.

Chinese netizens rally behind ‘Japanese Doll’ Ai Fukuhara after her Olympics defeat – to a China player

“I was overwhelmed when he proposed, so I don’t remember what I told him in response,” said Fukuhara, who won a bronze medal in Rio and was consoled by her Weibo fans after breaking down in tears following her semi-final defeat.

“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 added.

Additional reporting: Reuters, Xinhua