by Wade Townsend
Tomokazu Harimoto closed out 2016 setting records. He became the youngest ever World Junior Champion, keeping his somewhat older peers in line. The table tennis sensation was making headlines around the world for his ability to wrangle in the sporting arena with competitors twice his age. So was anyone really surprised when he continued to set records in 2017?
On the fateful afternoon of Sunday 27th August, Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto was crowned Men’s Singles champion at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Czech Open in Olomouc. In doing so he became the youngest ever player to win a World Tour title. He did the unthinkable at 14 years and 61 days old. The previous youngest was China’s Yu Ziyang; he was 16 years and 30 days old when he won in Japan in 2014.
Harimoto took the title the hard way. In the final he encountered an in form Timo Boll. Boll has had somewhat of a renaissance in 2017. In fact the German’s performance has been so good that he will find himself at no.3 in the world come January 2018. But Harimoto was having none of it at the Czech Open. He took the match 11-9 in the sixth game to write his way in to the history books.
But it almost wasn’t to be. Harimoto’s opponent in the semi-final was Hugo Calderano. The Brazilian had five match points to close out the match. But Harimoto held his nerve each and every time. One point would have seen his record erased, and you wouldn’t be reading this article now. What a difference a point can make.
The table tennis wonder kid capped off the year by deservedly taking home the Breakthrough Star Award at the ITTF Star Awards night in Astana. While he was a familiar face and threat to the world’s best 2016, in 2017 he firmly found his footing on the podium.
The career of Tomokazu Harimoto is only just beginning. The lion has only just begun to roar. What records will he sink his teeth in to in 2018?
Check out the full year in review below and relive some of the best moments from table tennis in 2017.