by Ian Marshall, Editor
Nine years ago, under the guidance of national coach, Masakazu Kawano, selecting Masaki Yoshida, Koki Niwa and Asuka Machi with Yuto Muramatsu resigned to the bench; they beat the trio comprising China’s Yin Hang, Korea Republic’s Kim Dongyhun and Hong Kong’s Chiu Chung Hei by three matches to nil to claim the Boys’ Team title.
A watershed victory, it remains to this day, ever since the tournament was first staged in 2002 in Tiszaujvaros, Hungary, the only time host nation has won either the Boys’ Team or for that matter the Girls’ Team event.
In 2018 Kazuki Hamada, Sora Matsushima, Hiroto Shinozuka and Yuma Tanigaki are the players charged with the task of emulating their illustrious predecessors and, just as in 2009 when the spotlight fell on Koki Niwa, now it falls on Hiroto Shinozuka. He is the ace in the pack.
Now 14 years old, in 2017 on the ITTF World Junior Circuit he won the Cadet Boys’ Singles title in the Czech Republic; this year most notably he won in China, having earlier in the year in Sweden finished the Junior Boys’ Singles runner up. Outstanding performances in what are hotbeds of the sport.
Similarly in Hong Kong, he was the Cadet Boys’ Singles runner up, whilst also reaching the Junior Boys’ Singles quarter-finals.
Equally, Hiroto Shinozuka’s colleagues have enjoyed success in the past year on the ITTF World Junior Circuit. Kazuki Hamada 15 years old, was a Junior Boys’ Singles quarter-finalist in the Czech Republic and later reached the same round in the Cadet Boys’ Singles competition in China.
Meanwhile, Yuma Tanigaki, also 15 years old, secured the Cadet Boys’ Singles title at the 2017 Portugal Junior and Cadet Open, whilst Sora Matsushima, only 11 years of age, was the Cadet Boys’ Singles runner up in Chinese Taipei.
A tough task ahead but are the odds any different to nine years ago? Do they not have the same chances as their predecessors? None are strangers to success.