by Wade Townsend
A press conference was held at the conclusion of the All Japan Championships, as all eyes, ears and cameras turned away from the athletes and to men’s coach Yosuke Kurashima and women’s coach Mika Baba, as they announced Japan’s team for the Leibherr 2017 World Championships.
Japan has one of the largest player pools to draw from for their selections, meaning the announcement of any team always provides some surprises.
The men’s squad for singles includes Jun Mizutani, Koki Niwa, Kenta Matsudaira, Yuto Muramatsu and Tomokazu Harimoto.
While the women’s lineup for singles is Kasumi Ishikawa, Mima Ito, Miyu Kato, Miu Hirano and Hitomi Sato.
Tomokazu Harimoto is certainly a wild card inclusion in the men’s selection. While falling short at the All Japan Championships, losing in the last 64, he is the current World Junior Champion and has had some significant wins on the World Tour. He is only 13 years old, but that isn’t to say he will simply taking part in the event to gain experience. Harimoto is widely known for his ferocious on table persona and will certainly be looking to move deep in to the draw.
Miu Hirano will be the one to watch in the women’s line-up, after ending 2016 taking home the Seamaster Women’s World Cup and beginning 2017 by winning the All Japan Championships. Overall the women’s selections signal a new generation of players has arrived.Three of the five athletes were part of the gold medal winning junior girls’ team at last year’s World Junior Championships. It is perhaps the most youthful team that Japan has ever selected and could mark a new era in the sport.
The selection also marks the first absence of Ai Fukuhara in 14 years. Newly wed Fukuhara did not participate in the All Japan Championships last week.
The following doubles pairings were also announced:
Yuya Oshima / Masataka Morizono
Koki Niwa / Maharu Yoshimura
Kasumi Ishikawa / Miu Hirano
Mima Ito / Hina Hayata
Maharu Yoshimura / Kasumi Ishikawa
Kenta Tazoe / Miyu Maeda