by Ian Marshall, Editor
Cast your mind back to the London 2012 Olympic Games, the semi-final women’s team event when Kasumi Ishikawa, Ai Fukuhara and Sayaka Hirano beat Singapore 3-0 to reach the final; thus Japan was assured of its first ever medal in the table tennis events at an Olympic Games.
Tears of joy flowed so fast they almost had to raise the flood barriers on the nearby River Thames.
The win in England’s capital city set the marker, now Kasumi Ishikawa remains but she is joined by a new selection; nowadays she lines up alongside teenagers Mima Ito and Miu Hirano with Hina Hayata, Miyu Kato and Saki Shibata very much knocking at the door.
Now can that group supersede the efforts of the London class? Japan secured the silver medal at the Liebherr 2018 World Team Championships. It is a possibility.
However, could it be the third group, the next down the line, the most recent that achieves even greater success? Could it be that the likes of Miyu Nagasaki, Miyuu Kihara and Haruna Ojio that excels all that has gone before?
Miyu Nagasaki will celebrate her 17th birthday on Sunday 15th June, the day the tournament closes in Sapporo. Miyuu Kihara and Haruna Ojio will mark their birthdays later in the year, on Saturday 3rd August. Miyuu Kihara will be 15 years old, on the same day Haruna Ojio will be 14 years of age. They are to the day one year apart.
In Sapporo, on the first day of action, Miyu Nagasaki kept her hopes of qualification alive by beating Chinese Taipei’s Su Pei-Ling (11-7, 11-6, 11-7, 7-11, 11-3), Miyuu Kihara accounted for Puerto Rico’s Melanie Diaz (11-9, 11-3, 11-5, 11-1). However, the performance of the day was that achieved by Haruna Ojio, the youngest member of the group, she came within a hair’s breadth of beating China’s He Zhuojia, the runner up at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals. She was beaten by the narrowest of decisions (5-11, 11-3, 11-8, 11-9, 8-11, 9-11, 11-9).
Impressive results, they support those already achieved this year. At the Seamaster 2019 ITTF Challenge Series tournaments, Haruna Ojio was a quarter-finalist in Croatia. In the same tournament Miyu Nagasaki reached the semi-finals as well as one week earlier in Slovenia progressing to the quarter-finals and winning the under 21 women’s singles title. Outstanding but arguably bettered by Miyuu Kihara, in Croatia she won the women’s singles event!
Also you can add the fact that in both Croatia and Slovenia Miyuu Kihara and Miyu Nagasaki won the women’s doubles titles.
Now let’s add one more to the list, a young lady with a brother who delights in setting youngest ever records, on the first day of play at the 2019 China Junior and Cadet Open, Miwa Harimoto who marks her 11th birthday on Monday 16th June, finished in first places in her cadet girls’ team group in partnership with Rin Mende.
I wonder at the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games, could those names be members of a team that reaches the highest pinnacle; the team to surpass the trio of 2002, the outfit that set the benchmark.