by Ian Marshall, Editor
The results suggest that Japan is ever closer to China, both have a wealth of teenage talent and younger but as we look at the aspiring generation are we seeing a gap appear between those two nations and the rest?
In Korat in the boys’ team event Japan surrendered just one individual match; that was at the quarter-final stage, when having negotiated the group phase, they recorded a 3-1 win against Russia, the top seeds. The one defeat being experienced by Yukiya Uda in the opening match of the fixture when losing to Lev Katsman (11-8, 11-8, 11-8).
Equally, in the girls’ team competition, Japan lost just one encounter en route to the final; at the quarter-final stage against the United States, Miyu Nagasaki was beaten by Amy Wang (11-7, 11-3, 7-11, 11-5). Now is that a name that can challenge China and Japan? Notably Amy Wang remained unbeaten throughout the team event and she still has one more year left in the junior ranks.
Not a surprise
Impressive from Japan but the team above all others to belie their seeded position was DPR Korea, the no.14 seeds, they ended proceedings as bronze medallists.
A 3-1 defeat was the end of adventures in the penultimate round against China. A surprise outcome; not so, at the Asian Junior and Cadet Championships held in Ulaanbaator during the first week of September, they had concluded play as the silver medallists, a 3-0 loss at the hands of China being the outcome.
Bronze for DPR Korea, in the girls’ team event it was the same for Chinese Taipei. They justified their no.4 seeded spot as did France in the boys’ team competition. However, in the semi-finals both experienced 3-0 defeats, Chinese Taipei at the hands of Japan, France when facing a Chinese Taipei team without the mercurial talents of Lin Yun-Ju.
Meanwhile further down the list, in the boys’ team event Chile impressed, as in the counterpart girls’ team competition did Thailand. Chile, the no.14 seeds, finished in 11th place; Thailand, the no.16 seeds, concluded matters in 12th position.
Long term future
Noteworthy performances but one clear fact, China and Japan proved a step ahead; technically their players are very correct; but is not a major reason the strength in depth and their view of the long term future?
Ever since 1959 when Rong Guotan won the men’s singles title at the World Championships in Dortmund, the strength in depth of the Chinese team has grown year by year; now this century that has been the phenomenon in Japan and is Chinese Taipei following suit? It gives the coaches the option not necessarily to select the best current players for a World Junior Championships; it gives the option to select the players who have the best chances of progressing to the very highest levels on the senior stage.
Notably both China and Japan fielded players who have at least two years remaining in the junior age group. Xiang Peng and Zeng Beixun, members of the Chinese boys’ team are 16 years of age, for the girls both Chen Yi and Kuai Man are only 15 years of age.
Consider Japan, Kakeru Sone is 16 years old, Hiroto Shinozuka one year younger; for the girls Miyuu Kihara is 15 years of age, Haruna Ojio only 14 years old. Furthermore, Miyuu Kihara, selected for every fixture, remained unbeaten throughout the whole team event!
Now think back to the first ever World Junior Championships staged in 2003 in Santiago; three 15 year olds appeared in the colours of China: Li Xiaoxia, Ma Long and Zhang Jike. Also there was a 14 year old on duty for Japan, a certain Jun Mizutani.
The class of 2003 did rather well; one wonders for the class of 2019 what riches await?