by Simon Daish
The previous player to hold the record for being the youngest Boys’ Singles champion also represented Japan with Kenta Matsudaira having won the title at the 2006 tournament in Cairo, Egypt aged 15 years and 259 days old.
Fan Zhendong of China came close to breaking Kenta Matsudaira’s record when he picked up the gold medal in India at Hyderabad 2012 aged 15 years and 329 days old, but not until now has Matsudaira’s record been beaten.
Not only has Tomokazu Harimoto broken the record but he has done so in a convincing manner at the age of 13 years and 163 days old, after the Boys’ Singles top seed for the 2016 World Junior Championships recovered from two games down to defeat the No.2 seed Cho Seungmin in the final.
Cho Seungmin had already appeared in three finals at the 2016 Championships in Cape Town prior to the Boys’ Singles finale having won gold medals in the Boys’ Doubles and Mixed Doubles events, while finishing in the runner up spot for the Boys’ Team competition with Korea Republic and the 18-year-old looked the sharper of the two players at the start of the Boys’ Singles final taking a 0-2 lead in the tie against Tomokazu Harimoto.
Harimoto has been well known by avid table tennis followers for some time now with his title victory in the Under 21 category of the 2016 ITTF World Tour Japan Open demonstrating his quality, and the Japanese star started to display some of that skill from game three onwards in the Cape Town final picking up three successive games to move 3-2 ahead.
The advantage was with Harimoto but the match wasn’t over just yet as Cho managed to level the tie with a win in game six, however, a spirited performance from Japan’s Harimoto in the deciding game was enough to put his name into the record books (7-11, 9-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-8, 7-11, 11-7) as the youngest ever Boys’ Singles champion.
“I was shouting to psyche myself up because this is the first and the last chance for me to win the title and I didn’t want to lose it. It was a difficult title for me to win in South Africa. The fact that I am the youngest player to win a world title never crossed my mind but I am so excited that I set this new record as the youngest in table tennis to win a world title” – Tomokazu Harimoto (Japan) following his win against Cho Seungmin in the Boys’ Singles final.
Tomokazu Harimoto’s achievement marks the end of the Sun International 2016 World Junior Championships in South Africa, and what better way to round off a magnificent eight day tournament than to see a new record being set?