by Wade Townsend
Who are the nominees for the 2017 ITTF Star Awards? Find out exactly are in the running for awards on table tennis’ night of nights.
Male Table Tennis Star
Timo Boll (GER): It’s been a renaissance year for Timo Boll. He has climbed the World Rankings, added the Korean Open title to his trophy cabinet, and took out Ma Long on his way to a silver medal at the Men’s World Cup. In 2017 the German veteran reminded the world that he still has some surprises in him yet.
Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN): A Male Table Tennis Star nomination for Tomokazu Harimoto was a near certainty. In 2017 the Japanese young gun captured the world’s attention and is one of the most talked about players. Kid table tennis won the 2017 Czech Open and in doing so became the youngest ever Singles World Tour winner at just 14 year-old. Harimoto’ style is changing the game as we know it and watching him play is like staring in to a crystal ball and seeing the future of men’s table tennis.
Ma Long (CHN): The flying dragon guaranteed his place in table tennis history in 2017. Ma Long will be finishing the year as the World No.1 after defending his World Championships singles title in Düsseldorf and claiming two World Tour titles. The standard bearer and leader for Team China continues to define the modern table tennis player.
Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER): 2017 has been close to perfection for Dimitrij Ovtcharov. Men’s World Cup Champion, a handful of World Tour titles, and he is also looking like a near certainty to kickoff 2018 as the World No.1 player. Dima personifies determination and has an unrivalled conviction on the court. The Male Table Tennis Star award would be the icing on the cake for the German hero.
Female Table Tennis Star
Cheng I-Ching (TPE): The ferocious style of Cheng I-Ching led to a Women’s World Cup bronze medal and a silver in Mixed Doubles at the World Championships in Düsseldorf. While there are bigger names at tournaments on the tour, few come with the same steely grit as Cheng.
Ding Ning (CHN): Table tennis’ Queen of Hearts dominated wherever she played in 2017. From a World Championships Singles and Doubles title, to winning on home ground at the China Open, Ding Ning doesn’t just win, she wins with style and flare. Her personality both on and off the court captures the adoration of fans all over the world and she continues to be a crowd favourite wherever she plays.
Miu Hirano (JPN): In 2017 Miu Hirano proved that she is not just a flash in the pan. The Japanese star became Asian Champion and then backed it up with a bronze medal in singles at the World Championships. Hirano hasn’t just left a mark on the international stage, but has also taken the popularity of table tennis in Japan to new heights.
Zhu Yuling (CHN): This time last year Zhu Yuling was getting ready to win the 2016 World Tour Finals. This kickstarted her 2017 campaign in which she won the Women’s World Cup and took a silver in singles at the World Championships. Zhu is also finishing off 2017 as the World No.1 and you can’t get any better than that.
Male Para Table Tennis Star
Joo Young Dae (KOR): World Ranked No.1 in Class 1, Joo Young Dae dominated the ITTF Para Table Tennis Asia Championships by winning gold in the Class 1 Singles and Class 1-3 Team Event.
Viktor Didukh (UKR): World Ranked No.1 in Class 8, Viktor Didukh won gold in the Class 8 Singles and Teams at the ITTF Para European Championships and took a silver medal in Class 8 teams at the Para World Team Championships.
Thomas Schmidberger (GER): World Ranked No.1 in Class 3, Thomas Schmidberger took a home a gold medal in Class 3 Teams at the Para World Team Championships, while also securing gold in Class 3 Singles and Teams at the ITTF Para European Championships.
Female Para Table Tennis Star
Jung Young A (KOR): With a World Ranking of No.2 in Class 5, Jung Young A picked up gold medal in Class 5 Singles and Class 4-5 Teams at the Para World Championships.
Wang Rui (CHN): World Ranked No.6 in Class 7, Wang Rui managed to win gold in Class 6-7 Singles and Class 6-8 Teams at the ITTF Para Asia Championships.
Neslihan Kavas (TUR): With a World Ranking of No.3 in Class 9, Neslihan Kavas won gold in both Class 9 Singles and Class 9-10 Teams at the ITTF Para European Championships and a silver medal in Class 9-10 Teams at the Para World Team Championships.
In 2017, Tomokazu Harimoto, Sun Yingsha, and Ioannis Sgouropoulos have all been nominated for the Table Tennis Breakthrough Star award. Each of these juniors have been behind some of the year’s biggest surprise performances. From European Youth Champion, World Tour winner, and all the way to youngest ever World Championship quarterfinalist, these young guns have blasted holes in everyone’s expectations in 2017.
The performances are just those that go on the table, but the bench as well. Yu Harimoto, Jorg Rosskopf and Viorel Filimon have all been nominated for Table Tennis Star Coach of 2017. Each has contributed immensely to their players’ performances out on the court, showing considerable passion from the sideline.