by Kabir Nagpal
The key contenders
The biggest competition calls for the biggest names in the sport – and there are few bigger than the Chinese and Japanese athletes when it comes to major events.
China will undoubtedly include the likes of Ma Long, Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin to complement the women’s side for who we can expect Ding Ning, Liu Shiwen and Chen Meng.
Such a roster of experience is very difficult to rival for any team – but the hosts Japan will undeniably have full faith the young leaders Tomokazu Harimoto and Mima Ito to find their way to the podium in some fashion or the another.
Meanwhile, the newly dubbed ‘Golden Hand’ from Chinese Taipei, Lin Yun-Ju will have his sights set to make an immediate impact in Tokyo given his recent exploits and style of play that is yet to be fully deciphered by his opponents.
Where there are top contenders, there are those who wish to upset the natural order. Judging by the standards of the names, there may well be good money on one of them doing so!
Over the years the youngest have proven to be the rising stars when the situation demands, there are a few experienced professionals who will surely make heads turn were they to write the script in Tokyo.
The first such name that comes to mind is the host nation’s Jun Mizutani – after his success in Rio 2016, this will be another huge pedestal for him to remind everyone he is very much still in the fight!
Speaking of which, Tokyo may well prove to be the final swansong for two of table tennis’ finest ever – Timo Boll and Vladimir Samsonov. The legends from Germany and Belarus are set to play their sixth and seventh respective Olympic Games next year and this could be their peak moment as they look to conquer the elusive gold.
For Boll’s compatriot, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, this will be a fourth attempt at the gold – something which has gone rather well when you think he has secured a medal in each of his prior appearances in Beijing, London and Rio. Silver and bronze in his collection will ‘Dima’ find a way to go a step higher on the podium this time?
On the other end of the spectrum are the young guns like Adriana Diaz and Lily Zhang – two representatives from the Americas who have started making waves across the world. Both women have had a successful run over the past year and will be working on making that count when #Tokyo2020Plus1 rolls along.
Similarly, for Kanak Jha, the youthful leader of the USA Team qualification for the Olympic Games has made a name for himself. He has become the poster boy for the next generation of American athletes.
Over in Africa there are a couple of role models as well in Dina Meshref and Quadri Aruna. The Nigerian Aruna will be playing his second Olympic Games after previously making his debut in 2012, London. Meanwhile, Meshref will be representing Egypt in her third Olympic Games – having yet to record a medal but with triple the urgency now to do so.