December 8, 2016: Tomokazu HARIMOTO has made history at the Sun International 2016 World Junior Table Tennis Championships (under 18) with his victory in the Boys’ Singles final to become the youngest ever World Junior Champion at 13 years and 163 days.
HARIMOTO is only the third ever cadet (under 15) player to win the Boys’ Single title at the World Junior Championships, and by far the youngest previous two are Kenta MATSUDAIRA (JPN) who won in Cairo in 2006 at 15 years and 259 days, and FAN Zhendong (CHN) in Hyderabad in 2012 at 15 years and 329 days.
Facing Korea’s CHO Seungmin who has claimed the Mixed Doubles and Boys’ Doubles Gold medals earlier in the day, the top seeded Japanese was on fire to fight for the crown. Despite having a difficult start into the match losing the first 2 games, the young Japanese was quick to recover to his usual playing form to make his comeback and eventually win 7-11, 9-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-8, 7-11, 11-7.
After the historic victory, HARIMOTO, who is known to shout after winning his points, shared, “I was shouting to psyche myself up because this is the first and the last chance for me to win the title and I don’t want to lose it. It was a difficult title for me to win in South Africa.”
China, who had swept all Gold medals available (Girls’ Team, Boys’ Team, Girls’ Doubles, Boys’ Doubles, Mixed Doubles, Girls’ Singles & Boys’ Singles) over the past two editions of the World Junior Championships, made a surprisingly disappointing trip to Cape Town, defending only the Girls’ Singles title, which could spell the end of a dominant era for team China.
China’s SHI Xunyao took home the sole Gold medal for the Chinese team with her 4-0 (11-2, 12-10, 13-11, 11-3) victory against surprise finalist MAK Tze Wing. SHI’s road to defending Chinese honor was not an easy one as she to overcome 2016 Women’s World Cup Miu HIRANO and 2014 Youth Olympic semifinalist Miyu KATO.
“I am so excited winning the first gold medal for China in the competition but I am little bit disappointed that we could not win more gold medals,” stated SHI. “Perhaps we were inexperienced because we have not played more international competitions.”
Romania won the first ever Girls’ Gold for Europe, with Adina DIACONU and Andreea DRAGOMAN claiming the Girls’ Double crown against Japan’s Hina HAYATA and Miyu KATO. The last time a Gold medal ever escaped Asian hands was back in 2005 where Patrick BAUM took Europe’s first Gold, in the Boys’ Singles event.
Settling for Silver in the Boys’ Team and Boys’ Singles events, CHO didn’t return home disappointed. The young Korean paired with KIM Jiho to defeat Japanese duo Yuki MATSUYAMA & HAYATA 4-3 (7-11, 11-9, 11-9, 7-11, 8-11, 11-3, 13-11) to take home the mixed doubles crown.
CHO also took home the Boys’ Doubles title with his partner AN Jaehyun, defeating HARIMOTO and Tonin RYUZAKI 4-1 (7-11, 11-8, 11-4, 11-3, 11-4).
Earlier in the week, Japan clinched both the boys’ and girls’ team titles in dominant fashion.
With the conclusion of the Sun International 2016 World Junior Table Tennis Championships, all attention turns to the Seamaster Qatar 2016 ITTF Star Awards on 8 December, as well as the prestigious Seamaster Qatar 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals from 8-11 December. —- ITTF
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