by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Wins on the 2016 ITTF World Tour came in a seven week period. In late April, he won in Poland beating Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov in the final, before in early June succeeding in both Slovenia and in Melbourne; in the former he accounted for Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan in the final, in the latter it was Singapore’s Li Hu.
Earlier in the year he had been the backbone of Japan’s success against England at the semi-final stage of proceedings in Kuala Lumpur when he beat both Paul Drinkhall and Liam Pitchford. Later after losing to China’s Ma Long at the semi-final stage of the Men’s Singles event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, he overcame Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus to claim bronze.
Nonetheless was not his greatest achievement of the year yet to come?
In the Men’s Team final in Rio de Janeiro, Japan suffered a three-one defeat at the hands of China but in the second match of the fixture, Jun Mizutani beat Xu Xin.
Ever since we set eyes on Jun Mizutani, when 14 years old, at the first ever World Junior Championships in 2003 staged in the Chilean capital city of Santiago, the sheer talent has been in evidence; that fact has never been in doubt.
Overcoming Xu Xin was a massive mental success. At the 2010 Asian Championships, Jun Mizutani had led Xu Xin 10-7 and 11-10 in the deciding fifth game of their contest in the final of the Men’s Team event. Xu Xin saved all four match points and won the match; had Jun Mizutani won, the contest would been over, Japan would have been the champions.
Fast forward to earlier this year in March and the ITTF World Tour Kuwait Open; at the quarter-final stage of their Men’s Singles duel, Jun Mizutani led 10-4 in the decisive seventh game, he became passive. He didn’t win another point!
In Rio de Janeiro, the magnitude of the Olympic Games lifted Jun Mizutani, there was nothing passive in the approach; he gave everything for the cause.
The gremlins of the past, the mental block was overcome, the win was not only a vote for sheer talent; it was a vote for outstanding character.