08 Apr 2020

A pair like no other and apparently yet quite like one another, Brazil's Bruna and Giulia Takahashi have a singular common passion which pushes them further on a daily basis - table tennis.

Discover their story ahead as we delve deep into two generational rising superstars of Latin America.

by Kabir Nagpal

Family bonds are always strong and sometimes they become even stronger due to a common factor.

Table tennis, is the common passion in the scenario; the two sisters taking on the world is the result of discovering their talents when play a sport for fun.

For the Takahashis, after the consolidated success of elder sister Bruna – the top Brazilian female athlete in the world – it was only a matter of time the younger one, Giulia, reached out to join her sister. At a tender age of 14, she has already stood out in world and continental competitions, increasing expectations for the next national generation of the sport in her country. Both sisters were part of the Hopes programme, ITTF’s Talent Identification scheme, and like her sister Bruna before her, Giulia is a current “With The Future In Mind” scholarship holder as a prospect for the Dakar 2022 Youth Olympic Games.

A young apprentice

As with many Brazilians, like Ishiy, Jouti, Tsuboi and Yamada, the Takahashi sisters are descendants from families who emigrated from Japan in the late 1890s and early 1900s. It was always meant, they would be drawn towards a sport like table tennis.

Beginning at the age of six in São Bernardo do Campo, Giulia was accompanied her father and sister. It is where the orange juice and lasagna loving younger Takahashi saw her elder sister play for the first time. Moreover, play she did, it was like fire to a flame for Giulia.

“They went there for leisure and I was always there to watch them train, but then it started to get more serious for her. There came a day when I started to get interested and decided to play. Then, I was called to train in São Caetano. I thought it was really cool because Bruna taught me and still teaches me a lot. I always looked at the details of her game, the movements and how she reacted during the match” Giulia Takahashi

What followed was an intense training routine which quickly became a part of the young woman’s daily life. During the week, Giulia trains for three hours in the afternoon from Monday to Friday. There is an additional extra hour of training on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which is on top of her mornings dedicated to studies. A problem that might be for some teenagers, but Giulia loves to study when she is not training.

“I want to win a place in the Cadet World Cup, win a World Cup and also go to the Olympic Games. I know it will be very difficult, but I will train a lot for that. I really want to team up with my sister at the Olympic Games – its a dream.” Giulia Takahashi

Born in the year 2005, the prodigy from Brazil has already left a mark on the world, with 25 gold medals, six silver and seven bronze medals in just over three years, which is in addition to her performances at the World, Pan-American, South American and Latin American Championships.

The younger Takahashi, at the Junior Girls’ Singles Table Tennis Championships in Australia. (Photo by Remy Gros)

Most recently, Giulia secured four titles – a full house if you please – at the 2020 South American Junior and Cadet Championships in Lima. An unbeaten athlete for five days of play, she held the perfect record. She partnered Laura Watanabe for success in the junior girls’ team event and followed with the junior girls’ singles, junior girls’ doubles and cadet girls’ singles titles.

It was not a one-off. A few days later, she completed another clean sweep at the 2020 Peru Junior and Cadet Open, in a classy display well beyond her years – securing a 10 days without defeat. She won all four category event available.

A Master of the Table Tennis Council

Bruna, the elder, is a master of the right hand top spin – something her young sister seems to have inherited and learnt very well. Born five years earlier, her style of play reflects as if she plays for herself but also to inspire her sibling every time she takes to the table.

It was evident at the 2015 ITTF World Cadet Challenge in Sharm El-Sheikh, when Bruna was a member of the Latin American squad that won the girls’ team title; the only time for Latin America since event started in 2002.

In that very event, her biggest achievement was a personal one. She won the won the girls’ singles title after she beat Russia’s Anastasia Kolish in the semi-finals and then Romania’s Andreea Dragoman in the final. It was then the celebrations began – Brazil had a first ever World Champion.

Of course, at 19, Bruna herself is not exactly a veteran but her calmness during any match in addition to her strong willed work ethic in training makes her a very young entrant into a Star Wars equivalent of a Council of Table Tennis.

Bruna Takahashi was in splendid form at the 2020 German Open (Photo by: Remy Gros)

Bruna has always been the one to bring unimaginable glory to her home, from her time in the ITTF World Junior Circuit to her now decorated senior career. Now in top 50 world rankings, number 46 today, has achieved a few memorable firsts for her continent as well.

A bronze medallist at the Pan American Games in Lima and a finalist in the Pan American Championship in Asunción, Bruna has consistently showcased her talents in exciting fashion. Her wish of course, is similar to that of her sister, in wanting to showcase their talent together one day.

“We have always been partners. It is very good because I can help her with some things, movements or somethings I have seen in games. I can also help in what she asks for help from me when she has difficulty doing something. So it’s very good and we always exchange a lot of ideas. We have always been very similar, since we were little. We scream, we always support each other, even when we are losing by a big difference. Giulia is a complete warrior and she never gives up.” Bruna Takahashi

A successful future awaits

Most recently, speaking to Olympics Every Day, due to the spread of the COVID-19 worldwide, the two sisters have found that the ‘quarantine’ life has brought them together timely.

 

Both athletes want to maintain their fitness in the sport, which they know will be keen to bring to life their dream of partnering up together for the Olympic Games.

“We are doing physical training with the table. Here at home, there is not much space, to block and the other to make the point, for example … So we have to throw the ball to each other, helped and this works very well, because otherwise we would only be able to practice service. So the two of us can train better. Of course it is not a super workout, but it is good to not stand still and not lose your hand. It was difficult, but I have put it on the schedule and followed. So we say that we will train at 10.00 am and 3.00 pm, for example, and we follow. It becomes easier to adapt.” Bruna Takahashi

For the Brazilian fans, it would be the perfect duo to rally behind – whether that is in the Olympic Games of 2024 or 2028, we do not know. What we do know, given their immaculate start to their careers, that it is a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’.

In Depth Bruna Takahashi Giulia Takahashi