by Simon Daish
China was seeded second for the competition behind top seeds Japan, but with the previous five World Junior Championship titles having gone to China and with Japan having lost all but one of their matches in the final prior to 2016, the odds were heavily in the Chinese contingent’s favour.
However, China would go on to suffer only its second ever defeat in the Girls’ Team final as Japan came back from behind to beat their opponents 3-1.
The closest and arguably the most dramatic battles came at the start of the final as five ends were required to see Shi Xunyao and Mima Ito put points on the board for their respective countries; Shi Xunyao gave China the lead after the 15-year-old overcame the 2016 Women’s World Cup champion Miu Hirano (7-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-7, 7-11), but a win for Japan’s Mima Ito over Liu Weishan in the second encounter of the match (11-8, 1-11, 9-11, 11-7, 11-8) brought the scores level at 1-1.
“Even though we lost this time, I think this defeat gave us more motivation and will push us harder in the next few days of tournament to retain the gold medal in the singles and doubles events”
Sun Yizhen (China)
With the final all square at one match apiece everything was still up for grabs for both countries. Then came arguably the biggest turning point in the tie as Hina Hayata put Japan 2-1 ahead with her triumph over Sun Yizhen (11-9, 11-3, 6-11, 11-6) to put the momentum in Japan’s court.
Shi Xunyao had to succeed against Japan’s Mima Ito to keep the dream alive for Team China, but Mima Ito’s game was on another level as the Rio 2016 bronze medallist powered her way to a straight games win (13-11, 11-7, 11-7) to give Japan its second gold medal in the Girls’ Team category.
After the conclusion of the final, Mima Ito stated that she is hoping to carry over her success from the Team competition to the Singles and Doubles events as the hunt for silverware continues in Cape Town:
“I am so very happy that we won this title and I feel great claiming the gold medal… In the fourth game, I noticed that my opponent was playing with a lot of power and I had to find a way to stop her in order for us to win. I will also try my best again to win the title in the Singles and Doubles events in this competition” – Mima Ito (Japan).