by Kabir Nagpal
Anticipation is rising on Japanese shores ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. “Tokyo 2019” is very much the focus this week. Japan is sending out their strongest players to fight for glory. Indeed, the extra source of motivation for the women’s team – ranked no.2 in the world – will be to give their fans a preview of things to come next year.
Having reached the final of the 2018 ITTF Team World Cup in London, expectations will be very high for the women’s team event. The effervescent Mima Ito and Miu Hirano will be present; the former still fresh from two final appearances at the 2019 ITTF World Tour Swedish and German Opens. Helping them along with their immense quality will be 2019 ITTF Challenge Thailand Open winner Hitomi Sato and double Olympic Games team medallist Kasumi Ishikawa (silver in 2012, bronze in 2016).
Hong Kong, China
For the bronze medallists at the 2018 ITTF Team World Cup in London, Hong Kong China will want to secure at the very least a similar finish. Ranked no.4 worldwide, the women’s squad will be led by the extremely efficient Doo Hoi Kem, who specialises in team and doubles’ events.
Previously seeded third, Doo is supported by the experienced Rio 2016 Olympian Lee Ho Ching, Minnie Soo Wai Yam and Zhu Chengzhu. Can this dream team achieve a podium finish again?
If there are to be some obvious challengers for the crown in Tokyo, it would be unwise to disregard the team ranked sixth in the world. The Korea Republic side arriving in Japan will have some household names among their ranks.
Jeon Jihee is somewhat a role model for aspiring young players across the country, while the career highlights of Suh Hyowon are always inspiring. The upcoming “kid on the block”, Shin Yubin will have Yang Haeun lending her experience, as well as the youngster who has a history of troubling Japanese athletes: Choi Hyojoo.
The main European challengers in this feast of talented teams across the world will be Austria, quarter-finalists at the Liebherr 2018 ITTF World Team Championships.
Bronze medallist at the CCB 2019 ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup, Sofia Polcanova will endeavour to take Austria to the latter stages of the tournament, alongside 2012 Olympian Amelie Solja, 37 year old veteran Liu Jia and upcoming youngster Karoline Mischek.
Ukraine will make their venture into the tournament in Tokyo with the firm mindset of upsetting the ranks and achieving an unforeseen podium finish. They will need to be at their very best to overcome overwhelming competition.
The world no.11 team will be commanded by three time Olympian Tetyana Bilenko, bronze medallist at the 2015 European Championships Margaryta Pesotska, veteran Ganna Gaponova, and Solomiya Brateyko.
Women’s singles quarter-finalist at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Cheng I-Ching will lead the way for the world no.3 team of Chinese Taipei. They will be keen to improve on last year’s quarter-final appearance in which they were defeated 3-0 by DPR Korea.
The final squad further comprises of Chen Szu‐Yu, shakehand grip attacker Liu Hsing‐Yin, Cheng Hsien‐Tzu and Su Pei‐Ling. Moving beyond the last eight will be the primary target, with such names on the docket, it would be imprudent to ignore their challenge.