30 Dec 2018

The powerhouse nation; in the past six decades titles won by China on the international scene endorse the fact, if that situation is to change in the foreseeable future, it will take a mighty effort. It was a fact underlined at the two major junior tournaments of the year.

Japan came close but China completed a clean sweep of titles at the Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games staged in early October; likewise two months later at the World Junior Championships in Bendigo, Australia, it was the very same outcome.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

In Buenos Aires, Wang Chuqin and Sun Yingsha won the respective Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles gold medals; Japan’s Tomakazu Harimoto and Miu Hirano had to settle for silver medals; it was the same in the Mixed Team final, the one consolation for the duo from the Land of the Rising Sun being that Tomokazu Harimoto extracted revenge for his earlier defeat against Wang Chuqin.

Meanwhile, in Bendigo, all seven titles finished in Chinese hands; the next generation proved their worth.

Yu Heyi, Xu Yingbin and Xiang Peng beat Japan’s Yuta Tanaka, Shunsuke Togami and Yukiya Uda to secure the Boys’ Team title; in the counterpart Girls’ Team gold medal contest, also facing Japan, Huang Fanzhen, Qian Tianyi and Shi Xunyao emerged successful in opposition to Miyuu Kihara, Miyu Nagasaki and Satsuki Odo.

Impressive performances, it was the very same later in the proceedings. Xu Haidong won the Boys’ Singles title. In final he beat Yukiya Uda, having earlier partnered Xiang Peng to Boys’ Doubles success, the pair overcoming surprise finalists Russia’s Maksim Grebnev and Lev Katsman.

The Boys’ Singles win meant that he emulated colleague Xue Fei who had succeeded one year earlier in Riva del Garda. Notably in an age when the pen-hold grip is by some distance the preferred option, they are the only pen-holders to win the Boys’ Singles title at a World Junior Championships. Equally the Girls’ Singles title has never been won by a player of that style.

Also, somewhat ironically, in his one contest in the Boys’ Team event, Xu Haidong had experienced defeat losing to Kanak Jha in a three-one success against the United States at the quarter-final stage. He was not selected for any further engagements. Thus he has the distinction of being the first ever player at a World Junior Championships not to have won a single match in the Boys’ Team event but then progressing to win the Boys’ Singles title!

Overall three titles for Xu Haidong, it was the same for Qian Tianyi; in fact it was nearly four.

She beat Shi Xunyao in the Girls’ Singles final, partnered Shi Xunyao to Girls’ Doubles success, securing the title at the final expense of Miyuu Kihara and Yumeno Soma, having earlier in the proceedings being a Mixed Doubles silver medallist. At the final hurdle, partnering Yu Heyi, it was defeat at the hands of colleagues Xu Yingbin and Shi Xunyao.

Star performances but if there was a star performance it belonged to Romania’s Cristian Pleatea. At the quarter-final stage of the Boys’ Singles event, he beat Ye Heyi; the 38 stroke rally which the Romanian won after being on his knees was a moment to remember, a champagne moment.

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2018 Review of Year China