by Neha Aggarwal
On 9th June 2017, the International Olympic Committee approved the inclusion of the mixed doubles event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Some six days earlier, on 3rd June, Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa and Maharu Yoshimura were crowned the 2017 Mixed Doubles World Champions.
The timing was perfect for the only non-Chinese gold medalist at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships. After the decision, the newly crowned champion Kasumi Ishikawa was delighted, “I am so happy that mixed doubles will be included in Tokyo 2020,” she said. “I have so much fun playing mixed doubles, and now I have a chance of winning gold in this cool event in front of my home crowd. It is a dream come true.”
Ishikawa and Yoshimura brought home the mixed doubles gold medal for Japan after 48 years; addition of the event in Tokyo 2020 gives these players a new direction.
In an exclusive interview with olympic.org, both Ishikawa and Yoshimura described their partnership.
“I’m happy that the mixed doubles event is now part of Tokyo 2020. It’s our chance for the gold medal at the Olympic Games and we must work hard towards that,” said 23-year-old Maharu Yoshimura. He further added:
“Winning the mixed doubles title at the World Championships has boosted our confidence. Ishikawa and I will most likely continue to partner each other in the event. We have been a strong pair and we have a chance for the gold medal again.” – Maharu Yoshimura.
“We’ve played together since we were very little. That’s why we understand each other. We are very good friends and we speak about personal things to each other. We encourage each other,” explained Kasumi Ishikawa.
A key to success in any doubles partnership is not only knowing your partner’s strength and weakness on the table, but also having a good rapport with your partner off it. Both Ishikawa and Yoshimura have learnt the art well.
“At last week’s World Championships, a sell-out crowd of 8,000 people watched the mixed doubles final, so we know that the public has an appetite for this exciting event, and it will be a huge success at Tokyo 2020.” – Thomas Weikert, President ITTF.
Japan’s rise on the world table tennis map is clear from the performance of the contingent at the Liebherr 2017 World Championship. Japan won five medals this year, the last time they had such success was 48 years ago in 1969! With youngsters such as Mima Ito, Miu Hirano, Tomokazu Harimoto smashing existing and creating new records, Japan’s future holds high as they prepare to win at Tokyo.
However, Japan will have to face the daunting task of overcoming the mighty China. They missed a clean sweep of titles in Düsseldorf, and this certainly worries them. Winning a clean sweep of titles in the last three editions of the Olympic Games, China will aim for the fourth.
Mixed doubles, a new territory at the Olympics, is up for the world to conquer.