by Kabir Nagpal
The no. 10 seeds in the women’s team event, DPR Korea is more than ready for the sparks to fly in Gondomar. Notably, the outfit comprises women’s singles bronze medallist from Rio 2016, Kim Song I; her defensive skills make her a major threat, especially against European opposition.
Partnering her will be the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games talent Pyong Song Gyong and the experienced Kim Nam Hae.
Bronze medallists at the Liebherr 2018 World Team Championships, Sweden leads European hopes in the men’s event. Runner up at 2019 Liebherr World Championships Mattias Falck lines up alongside Kristian Karlsson, Jon Persson and Anton Källberg.
Likewise, Great Britain with Paul Drinkhall, Liam Pitchford and Sam Walker on duty, the same players who secured bronze for England at the Perfect 2016 World Team Championships, are also major contenders for Tokyo places.
In the women’s event, European eyes focus on Romania. Bernadette Szocs, the CCB 2018 Europe Top 16 winner and 2019 runner up will be a key factor. She is supported by Daniela Monteiro-Dodean, Elizabeta Samara and Irina Ciobanu.
After succeeding at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, which was followed by their first ever medal in same year at an Asian Games; having never before reached the team events at the Olympic Games, India’s men’s squad have a real opporunity to rewrite history.
Seeded no.5, India will look towards their new main man, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran. He lines up alongside Sharath Kamal Achanta who has led the Indian charge for nearly 20 years. Joining them will be Manav Vikash Thakkar and Harmeet Desai.
Hong Kong China
Ever present in the men’s team event at the Olympic Games, Hong Kong China face a difficult ride in qualifying this time around. The no.10 seeds have not experienced the best of luck in recent times; their leading man, pen-holder Wong Chun Ting, is still feeling the pangs of the injury he suffered at the end of last year.
Wong will take the captain’s role and pull together his side comprising of doubles partner Ho Kwan Kit, team mates Ng Pak Nam, Lam Siu Hang and Li Hon Ming for a strong qualifying campaign.
Flying the African continent’s flag high, Segun Toriola is aiming for an unprecedented eighth Olympic Games appearance. He is the voice of vast experience alongside Quadri Aruna, Bode Abidun, Olajide Omotayo and Taiwo Mati. The only man on duty in Gondomar to come close to that number is the veteran from Belarus, Vladimir Samsonov. He is aiming for his seventh Olympic Games appearance. A medal always elusive, Tokyo could well be his last chance.
Meanwhile in the Nigerian women’s team, Olufunke Oshonaike is yet another who is working hard for a seventh Olympic Games visit. She made her debut in 1996 in Atlanta; can her teammates Fatimo Bello, Offiong Edem, Ajoke Ojomu and Cecilia Akpan help her achieve the biggest qualification in sport?
Find out what happens as the action unfolds, right here on ITTF!