08 Apr 2020

Raising spirits, in the face of adversity we need that more than ever as the world struggles to cope with COVID-19; everyone needs a lift as life is disrupted.

If any sporting partnership can bring cheer; then without doubt the vote goes to Japan's Miyuu Kihara and Miyu Nagasaki; in the past year their enigmatic smiles have lit up the table tennis arenas of the world.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Step by step as 2019 progressed, the results achieved, rose in stature.

They won the junior girls’ doubles titles at both the Asian Junior and Cadet Championships in Ulanbaator and at the NSDF World Junior Championship in Korat; that in itself was a most notable achievement, especially considering at the time Miyuu Kihara was 15 years old and Miyu Nagasaki only 17 years of age.

The serious side. Miyu Nagasaki (left) and (right) Miyuu Kihara en route to gold at the NSDF 2019 World Junior Championships (Photo: Rémy Gros)

 

Also you can add the scenario that on both occasions the might of China was present.

Overshadowed

However, those performances were somewhat overshadowed by their success at ITTF Challenge Series tournaments and to a much greater extent on the ITTF World Tour.

At ITTF Challenge Series tournaments, they won the women’s doubles titles in Croatia and Slovenia but the focus was on the ITTF World Tour. They played in 11 of the possible 12 tournaments; the only absence being the very first of the year when they did not compete in Hungary; no doubt had that event not clashed with the highly prestigious Japanese National Championships, they would have been present!

Impressively, on the ITTF World Tour they were semi-finalists in Hong Kong, Japan and Australia before ending the year on the highest note possible.

In October, they were the runners up in Germany; in November, the winners in Austria before being successful in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou at the Agricultural Bank of China ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.

Miyuu Kihara (left) and (right) Miyu Nagasaki, winners of the women’s doubles event at the Agricultural Bank of China 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals (Photo: Rémy Gros)

 

Most significantly, it was a tournament in which they caused an upset that exceeded all the surprises they had realised earlier in the year. At the semi-final stage they beat the host nation’s Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu, eight months earlier crowned world championships in Budapest, before securing the title at the expense of Korea Republic’s Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun.

Title that nearly did not happen

Together an outstanding year, very much the same apart. Miyuu Kihara won the women’s singles title at the ITTF Challenge Croatia Open; Miyu Nagasaki was crowned the under 21 champion in Slovenia.

Miyuu Kihara, all smiles after beating colleague Miyu Kato to win the women’s singles title in Croatia (Photo: Robert Valai)

 

Equally on the ITTF World Tour in Japan and Sweden, Miyu Nagasaki accounted for China’s Zhu Yuling but it was her efforts at the Asian Junior and Cadet Championships in Ulanbaataar and at the NSDF World Junior Championships in Korat that are recorded  for all to see in the roll of honour annals.

On both occasions she won the junior girls’ singles title but very nearly it didn’t happen; in Ulanbaataar one game decided her fate.

All competed in the group stage, Miyu Nagasaki was not seeded; she was drawn in the same group as China’s Kuai Man, the no.8 seed. In the opening match in the group, Kuai Man suffered a shock defeat, she was beaten DPR Korea’s Pak Su Gyong in four games (12-10, 11-8, 8-11, 11-7). In the immediately ensuing match Miyu Nagasaki overcame Pak Su Gyong in straight games (11-1, 11-6, 11-7).

Gold in Ulaanbaatar but for Miyu Nagasaki it was very nearly a group stage exit (Photo: V. Tumenbayar)

 

Only the player finishing in first place in the group progressed to the main draw. In order to qualify, Miyu Nagasaki needed to win one game to progress. She did just that! She lost the match but after saving game points won the second. Eventually she lost in four games (11-4, 14-16, 11-9, 11-6); she came within a hair’s breadth of not gaining a main draw place!

Games ratio decided, first place for Miyu Nagasaki (4:3) followed by Kuai Man (4:4) and Pak Su Gyong (3:4). Of course, Miyu Nagasaki smiled!

Lifts tension

Success upon success but the important factor is that together or apart, Miyuu Kihara and Miyu Nagasaki smile; is that not a reason why they success. I’m no sports psychologist but does that not reduce the tension of the situation make player more relaxed, more able to extol their skills.

It may or may not be the scenario, wiser men than me must advise but one things is certain, even at the very highest levels, they show that sport is to be enjoyed, they raise spirits.

Now if at the moment your spirits need a boost, try a cure, just click below and watch Miyuu Kihara and Miyuu Nagasaki.

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