by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Listed at no.9 on the current Under 18 Boys’ World Rankings, Truls Moregard is the top seed; furthermore, considering current form he is very much the favourite for gold.
Just over two months ago, in the Italian resort of Riva del Garda, he excelled all expectations to reach the final of the Boys’ Singles event at the World Junior Championship.
A flash in the pan, a one off success; not so, at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Hungarian Open, once again he rose to the challenge. He reached the semi-final stage of the Under 21 Men’s Singles event, losing to Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju, the eventual champion.
Likewise, in the Men’s Singles competition, the young man who celebrated his 16th birthday on Friday 16th February (the day on which both China’s Zhang Jike and Austria’s Liu Jia mark their birthday), he advanced through the qualification stage to reserve a main draw berth.
Defeat in round one was the outcome at the hands of Denmark’s Jonathan Groth; but note the names of the players he beat in the preliminary rounds; he overcame both Romania’s Ovidiu Ionescu and India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta.
Eyes from a local viewpoint are directed on Truls Moregard but there is most worthy opposition in action in Örebro.
Frenchman Irvin Bertrand is the second name in the order of merit, in Hungary he reached the second round of the Under 21 Men’s Singles event losing to the man in form; the host nation’s Bence Majoros, the eventual silver medallist.
Next in line in Örebro is Austria’s Maciej Kolodziejczyk followed by the Japanese duo of Kakeru Sone and Aoto Asazu; Argentina’s Martin Bentancor, Takeru Kashiwa and Belgium’s Laurens Devos complete to the top eight names.
Notably at the recent 2018 Czech Junior and Cadet Open, Maciej Kolodziejczyk, Martin Bentancor and Takeru Kashiwa all reached the fourth round of the Junior Boys’ Singles event; Kakeru Sone was the runner up. Similarly, Laurens Devos displayed good form as the year started; notably in the Men’s Singles qualification tournament for the Seamaster 2018 Hungarian Open, he beat the Czech Republic’s Pavel Sirucek.
Meanwhile, Aoto Asazu has a particular liking for Sweden, last year he reached the semi-final stage of the Junior Boys’ Singles event.
Will he have the same liking this year, Japanese players are no strangers to winning gold in the Nordic country, or will there be a home win? The onus of responsibility rests on the shoulders of Truls Moregard.