13-Year-0ld Table Tennis Prodigy Nominated to Join Team Japan in World Championships in May
Tomokazu Harimoto, a 13-year-old table tennis prodigy from Sendai, Japan, is picked to join Japan's men's team to challenge the world championships in Germany this May. He is the youngest table tennis player to represent Japan in the world championships, announced the Japan Table Tennis Association January 22.
The association's board meeting met right after the close of the 2017 All Japan Table Tennis Championships to nominate 5 players each of Japan's men and women teams. The 2017 men's grand champion Jun Mizutani leads the men's team with Koki Niwa, Kenta Matsudaira, Yuto Muramatsu and Tomokazu Harimoto; the new 2017 women's grand champion Miu Hirano joins Kazumi Ishikawa, the former grand champion, Mima Ito, Miyu Kato and Hitomi Sato.
Tomokazu Harimoto was eliminated in earlier rounds in the 2017 All-Japan Championships but nominated by virtue of his brilliant performance in the 2016 Junior World Championships which he had reigned in men's singles at the age 13.
The grand champions, Ishikawa and Hirano, will pair up in the doubles and Ito with another young hopeful Hina Hayata. With the Tokyo Olympics in view three years later, the association is testing a fresh pair beside the popular pair "Miu-Mima" of Miu Hirano and Mima Ito.
Japan is fast rising in the sport of table tennis, notably in lower age brackets, and expected to shine in the world championships in May. The most outstanding is the new women's grand champion Miu Hirano who won the highest honor at age 16 years and a few months over Kazumi Ishikawa who had crashed her in last year's championships.
Hirano has grown visibly tougher over the past year, dominating nearly the entire final game against Ishikawa with her powerful backhand shots. She has signaled the dawn of a new generation of women's table tennis.（Nathan Shiga)