by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Born in Iwata, Shizuoka Prefecture, some 15 months after the closing ceremony signalled the end of the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, the debut for table tennis in the prestigious multi-sport, the Land of the Rising Sin had to wait 28 years before a medal was secured; the lifetime of Jun Mizutani.
The wait to achieve the same at the Men’s World Cup is even longer, almost a decade longer; since the first edition was staged in Hong Kong in 1980, Japan despite its great traditions, always competitive at the major events across the globe, has never spawned a player who has gained a top three podium finish.
Notably Kiyoshi Sato finished in fourth place in 1984 in Kuala Lumpur, the best finish prior to the arrival of Jun Mizutani, Five appearances to date, on debut in Moscow in 2009 he did not progress beyond the initial group stage. On his next four attempts he finished in an agonising fourth place, one win away from the third step of the podium.
However, if he is to achieve his aspirations; he may well have to overcome at least one of two German players who in the past have proved his nemesis and compete in Liège. Notably, in 2010 in Magdeburg and in 2014 in Düsseldorf, in the bronze medal match he was beaten by Timo Boll; more recently in Halmstad in 2015, he suffered at the hands of Dimitrij Ovtcharov. The one saving grace for Jun Mizutani on the one other occasion when he competed in third placed contest, Paris in 2011, he lost to Joo Saehyuk, the Korean is not on duty this year.
In Rio de Janeiro one drought ended; in Liège will Japan raise a glass of sake to Jun Mizutani?