Otocec – Slovenia, Nov 04, 2013: 64 players from 33 countries have formed friendships, learned about other cultures and played some table tennis at the 2013 World Cadet Challenge, the world’s premier under-15 table tennis event, where players represent their continent instead of their countries.
Asia reaffirmed their place at the top of the under-15 world by claiming all the titles in Otocec, Slovenia, despite being pushed by players from around the world, in what could be a preview of the playing field at Tokyo 2020.
14-year-old LI Yiran of China beat 13-year-old Japanese sensation Mima ITO in a pulsating girls’ singles final 8-11, 11-3, 11-9, 2-11, 5-11, 13-15, 11-9, while WANG Chuqin of China dispatched of Korea’s HWANG Minha 11-7, 10-12, 11-7, 11-8, 12-10 to win the boys’ singles crown.
The girls’ final match could have gone either way, but Asian Cadet Champion LI thought she had the advantage: “At the crucial points, I kept going for my shots, I was not afraid to lose. I thought that our skills were about even, so I think this made the difference.”
“I now feel confident about the rest of my career, but I know this is only the start and if I want to win more major titles I need to work hard,” concluded the 2013 ITTF World Cadet Challenge Girls Champion.
The boys’ final was more straightforward as WANG Chuqin displayed his full potential against his Korean opponent.
“I am very honored and excited to win this event, which has been won by my heroes: ZHANG Jike, XU Xin and MA Long, who are currently three out of the top four players in the world. I hope winning this event is a good omen for me to be as successful as all of them,” stated WANG Chuqin.
The two emerging Chinese super stars also paired up with their continental teammates to claim doubles gold. LI Yiran was victorious with MAK Tze Wing (HKG) while WANG Chuqin paired up with IZUMO Takuto (JPN) to clinch gold, making it a truly memorable event for team Asia.
Earlier in the week, Asia had claimed the boys’ and girls’ team titles, both defeating Europe in close encounters.
Despite sweeping the gold medals in Otocec, the Asians did not have it all their way in the week long event, with 13-year-old Puerto Rican Adriana DIAZ shocking the table tennis world by pulling off the biggest upset in the World Cadet Challenge’s 11 year history, beating eventual girls’ singles champion China’s LI Yiran in the teams’ event.
Romanian Adina DIACONU also caused a stir beating LI Yiran and Japanese Mima ITO in the teams final, both of which were the eventual girls’ singles finalists. Latin America also portrayed their growth by winning 3 medals, and could see gold in the near future.
After hosting one of the most successful ITTF World Cadet Challenges, Slovenia will now passed the flag over to the 2014 hosts Barbados. —- ITTF/Photo by Andre Matic