by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Could we witness a repeat of 2005 in Linz or 2010 in Bratislava? Can Japan once again topple the mighty China?
In 2005, no Chinese boy secured a title. Japan with Jun Mizutani, Seiya Kishikawa and Taku Takakiwa overcame the Chinese trio of Yang Ce, Liu Miao and Fang Li by three matches to nil in the final of the Boys’ Team event. Later Chinese Taipei’s Chiang Hung-Chieh and Huang Sheng-Sheng won the Men’s Doubles title with Mixed Doubles gold finishing in the hands of Korea’s Kang Donhoon and Shim Serom.
Now in 2016 can the quartet comprising Tomokazu Harimoto, Yuto Kizukuri, Yuki Matsuyama and Tonin Ryuzaki repeat the feat?
All are familiar faces on the ITTF World Junior Circuit; notably in the Boys’ Singles event Tomokazu Harimoto is the top seed, Yuto Kizukuri is the third seed with Tonin Ryzaki being next in line. Simply, when compared with their potential Chinese rivals, they are seasoned internationals.
However, beware, in 2005 I would suggest that China misread the situation; they sent players from the city that had won the National Championships, as opposed to a full national selection. They sent the Beijing team; they never made the same mistake; their saviour was a bright eyed, ever smiling young lady; Ding Ning won the Girls’ Singles title.
In Cape Town, the Chinese players may not have the international experience of others on duty but all have appeared this year an all have impressed. Note the boys, on the ITTF World Tour in Pyongyang, Xu Haidong reached the quarter-final stage of the Men’s Singles event, Xu Yingbin was the runner up.
Meanwhile on the ITTF World Junior Circuit, in Taicang, Yang Shuo beat Xu Haidong in the final of the Junior Boys’ Singles event; whilst in Hong Kong Yu Heyi struck gold with Xu Yingbin being a semi-finalist.
At the Sun International 2016 World Junior Championships, in the Boys’ Team event Japan occupies the top seeded position, China is next in line.
It is the same in the Girls’ Team event where Miu Hirano, Mima Ito, Hina Hayata and Miyu Kato not only form the top seeded outfit, they are the respective top four names in the Girls’ Singles event.
All have enjoyed success on the ITTF World Junior Circuit and on the ITTF World Tour, with most pertinently Miu Hirano having won the recent Seamaster 2016 Women’s World Cup.
“Even though I won the Women’s World Cup, I have to come into this tournament with a fresh mind and put that victory in the past as the players here are also the best in the world. I will be playing in all four events here in Cape Town and of course I hope to win all four gold, it is going to be tough especially with the Chinese team who will be our biggest threat but we will give in our best efforts”, Miu Hirano
In Cape Town, they are aiming to repeat the success gained in 2010 in snowbound Bratislava. On that occasion Kasumi Ishikawa, Misaki Morizono and Ayuka Tanioka won the Girls’ Team title; they overcame the Chinese outfit of Zhu Yuling, Gu Yuting and Yi Fangxian by three matches to one in the title deciding contest.
Similar to the boys, it is the only occasion that the team title did not finish in Chinese hands.
Also, similar to the boys beware; the Chinese squad, the second seeds, comprising Liu Weishan, Shi Xunyan, Sun Yizhen and Yuan Yuan have all enjoyed international success.
It is not comparable with the Japanese quartet but it is worthy of note. At the ITTF World Tour Pyongyang Open earlier this year, both Liu Weishan and Shi Xunyan were Women’s Singles quarter-finals.
Also in Taicang, on home soil on the ITTF World Junior Circuit, Liu Weishan and Sun Yizhen reached the penultimate round of the Junior Girls’ Singles event; in 2013 in Chengdu, Yuan Yuan was a semi-finalist.
The seeding suggests finals in both the Boys’ Team and Girls’ Team events will be Japan versus China; it may never happen but if it does, my word, it will be intriguing.