by Kabir Nagpal
It was a golden day for Germany at the Minsk 2019 2nd European Games when they beat Sweden 3-0; the combination formed by Timo Boll, Patrick Franziska and Dimitrij Ovtcharov showing no charity against Mattias Falck, Kristian Karlsson and Jon Persson. The clear win put them on the plane to Tokyo nearly a year before the event itself.
Held in last August, the 12th All African Games in Morocco proved to be a vital place in the history of Egypt as they secured their tickets to Tokyo in Rabat. Playing at the Moulay Al Hassan Arena, Egypt managed to win four gold medals, two silvers and a further four more bronze medals. They displayed their dominance, beating Nigeria in the final. They will be looking to do the same when they arrive in Japan.
Speaking of dominant forces, the number one in table tennis remains the might of China. Winning the men’s team title at the 2019 Asian Championships in Yogyakarta, at the final hurdle, they overcame Team Korea Republic, the no.2 seeds, to reserve the highest step of the podium. The likes of Xu Xin, Ma Long, Fan Zhendong and Liang Jingkun are set to be raring to go for further unprecedented success in Tokyo.
Playing in front of their home crowd at Rockford, Nikhil Kumar, Zhou Xin and Kanak Jha stepped up to the challenge to win the 2019 ITTF North American Team Qualification event in style, sending the United States team to the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The American outfit resisted Canada’s late challenge and never looked under a threat in their own backyard.
Tense moments with nerves apparent in the Peruvian capital city of Lima, Brazil eventually found a way to Tokyo. At the 2019 Latin American Team Qualification tournament, the men’s squad comprising Hugo Calderano, Vitor Ishiy and Gustavo Tsuboi with Francisco Arado, the coach sitting courtside alongside Eric Jouti recorded a 3-2 win against the no.2 seeds, Argentina.
The Oceania Team Qualification win was secured by previous Olympians in Australia’s squad: David Powell, Heming Hu and Yan Xin. They were all part of the Australian men’s squad at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games; they won the right to be the Oceania Champions in front of a home crowd. How far will they go in Tokyo?
Possessing perhaps the biggest threat to pace-setters China is another Asian outfit in the form of Japan, they qualified as hosts. Tomokazu Harimoto has previously proven to be a thorn in the side of Chinese efforts in recent years, while the likes of Jun Mizutani and Koki Niwa, all know their way around the table.
Republic of Korea
One of the first teams to reach Tokyo via the qualification tournament held in Gondomar was the Korea Republic side of Jeoung Youngsik, Lee Sangsu, Jang Woojin. In the men’s competition they recorded a 3-0 success against the Czech Republic to gain their passes to Tokyo. Not just looking to put on a good show, Korea Republic means business when they arrive in Japan later this year!
The no.11 seeds at the World Team Qualification tournament, Slovenia has one name to thank for their exploits: 21 year old Darko Jorgic pulled out all the stops in the crucial last 16 contest against India, overcoming both Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Sharath Kamal Achanta in a 3-1 success. Thus Slovenia made table tennis history, qualifying for an Olympic Games team event for the first time.
Very much contrary to expectations, Croatia will be making their way to Tokyo because of a splendid showing in Portugal earlier last month. In a straight 3-0 win over Great Britain, the Croatian outfit formed by Andrej Gacina, Frane Kojic and Tomislav Pucar never looked off pace and prevented themselves from following the long round of 16 route – one that was actually foreseen for the European side.
The third team to make the event in 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo via the qualification tournament, Sweden had the efforts of Kristian Karlsson, Mattias Falck and Jon Persson to thank as they dominated Hungary at the final hurdle, winning 3-0. Sweden has no shortage of leaders like Falck and Anton Källberg to lead the line in Japan and thus what remains certain is the fact they will be looking for a podium finish.
French fans present in Gondomar, Portugal last month had little to worry about as they carved a splendid 3-0 win over the no.18 seeds Slovakia. It took no more than the better half of an hour to achieve that feat, a match where the performances were rather better than the score line may read. France will need to be at their very best in Tokyo – the competition becomes more testing.
Playing on home soil at the qualification tournament in Gondomar, Portugal had a successful time with Tiago Apolonia lining up alongside Marcos Freitas and João Monteiro. The no. 8 seeds, they beat Belgium comprehensively and thus received their tickets for Tokyo.
At the qualification tournament, if there was a one major surprise, it was Serbia. Seeded as no.27, they faced Hong Kong China, the no.10 seeds, in the round of 16, what happened next was dreamland. In a 3-2 overall win, Marko Jevtovic and Zsolt Peto responded, Dimitrije Levajac played the match of his life to beat Wong Chun Ting to secure victory.
Winning against Poland at the qualification tournament, Chinese Taipei remain a key contender in the race for silverware at Tokyo. The emergence of Lin Yun-Ju over the last year has strengthened Chinese Taipei’s hand tremendously, making them a a constant threat to those at the very top of the game.
Hong Kong China
Hong Kong China took the the long route to reach Tokyo. After losing out to Serbia, they were required to compete in the second stage of the qualification tournament. They recorded a 3-1 win against Poland, before securing a 3-0 success against Hungary, to book their place in the final. Facing the Czech Republic, a 3-0 success followed, the Tokyo reservation was confirmed.