by Simon Daish
Avid followers of the professional scene will I’m sure by now know all about Mima Ito, whether it be her record breaking performances or her rise to second place in the latest world rankings list, her name pops up more often than not.
Women’s team bronze with Japan at Rio 2016, two-time silver medallist on the World Team Championships stage and eight singles titles on the ITTF World Tour, Ito’s trophy collection is simply awe inspiring for a 19-year-old. Considered the main threat to China’s search for a perfect ninth women’s singles gold on the Olympic stage, Ito is in with a real shot at landing Japan’s first medal in the category.
Speaking to Japan Times, Ito admits she would have enjoyed the unique prospect of claiming Olympic glory as a teenager. However, in every difficult moment there’s an opportunity to better oneself and for Ito the delay presents her with a chance to work on her game even more ahead of the Games.
“If the Olympics had been held this year, I would still be in my teens while many other athletes are over 20, which would have made it even more special for me… There’s still the Olympics next year and I want to increase my chances of winning. I take this situation positively.” Mima Ito
Not just a threat in the women’s singles event, Ito will also be a major contender in the doubles categories, especially the mixed doubles having formed a useful partnership with fellow compatriot Jun Mizutani.
Preferring to play close to the table, looking to hunt the rally down Ito appears to have struck a strong understanding with Mizutani, who plays his best table tennis away from the table. Two opposite approaches but in this example it appears to work to the pair’s benefit, covering all angles of the court.
A shining example of their compatibility was evident at the 2020 ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open, besting China’s Wang Chuqin and Sun Yingsha in an exciting final (11-8, 7-11, 11-4, 15-13). Sending a clear message to the rest of the world on that occasion, understandably hopes are high from the Japanese camp surrounding Ito and Mizutani.
Such understanding must take hours and hours of practice to perfect, right? Well you’d be surprised, according to Ito the two of them hardly spend much time on table ahead of play!
“We can probably do it without. Even when we compete in tournaments, we don’t practise at all. We practise together for 20, 30 minutes before the match. So, I really don’t have too many worries about the mixed doubles.” Mima Ito
Natural ability, two players in sync, Ito’s chances of Olympic gold in the mixed doubles are a real possibility. A positive outlook in the darkest of times, Ito appears to have the confidence of an Olympic champion – now the question is: can she convert that confidence into results?
Source: Japan Times