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Showing character, shouldering responsibility, Tomokazu Harimoto

Monday 29 March

Salute Tomokazu Harimoto; he lost, he returned the stronger and he won, that takes character, a strong mind-set, an inner will.

On both occasions the top seed, at the World Table Tennis (WTT) Contender tournament in Doha on Friday 5th February, in the penultimate round, he was beaten by Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov, the no.4 seed (8-11, 6-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-3, 11-7).

One week later, on Friday 12th February, at the WTT Star Contender event, in the same round as he had experienced defeat against the German, he prevailed (8-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-13, 11-7, 11-7).

Again, the contest was decided in six games; Tomokazu Harimoto versus Dimitrij Ovtcharov is becoming and increasing tasty contest. Always, regarding Tomokazu Harimoto we must take age into consideration, in 2017 he lost to Dimitrij Ovtcharov on the ITTF World Tour in New Delhi and at the Grand Finals in Astana.

However, since that date he is in the ascendancy. In addition to the recent results in Doha, Tomokazu Harimoto prevailed at the 2019 Team World Cup in Tokyo and at the 2020 ITTF World Hungarian Open. Sandwiched in between, Dimitrij Ovtcharov won at the 2019 ITTF World Tour Austrian Open.

There is nothing to choose and remember Tomokazu Harimoto is only 17 years old; in the last three years we have become so used to him beating established stars that his successes are no longer headline news. The results are expected! He is not just a sensation in table tennis, a sensation in the whole world of sport.

Win or lose in Doha, Tomokazu Harimoto gave yet another outstanding performance, his results somewhat different and a few steps ahead of his colleagues.

Accepted that Masataka Morizono at the Contender tournament played three matches in the preliminary round but if you consider Japanese performances in the two tournaments, other than those of Tomokazu Harimoto, for the Land of the Rising Sun, it was dismal reading.

In the main draw, it read: played eight matches, won two!

At the Contender tournament, in the first round, the Korea Republic ended progress. Masataka Morizono was beaten An Jaehyun (11-8, 11-6, 11-8), Yukiya Uda, the 2020 national champion, by Cho Daeseong (11-8, 12-10, 12-14, 5-11, 11-4).

The following week at the Star Contender tournament, again on duty Masataka Morizono beat Sweden’s Jon Persson (11-9, 11-4, 8-11, 11-8) but then lost to Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna (11-6, 11-9, 1-11, 11-7).

A second exit for Masataka Morizono; it was once more an opening round departure for Yukiya Uda. He was beaten by Egypt’s Ahmed Ali Saleh (12-10, 11-8, 6-11, 11-8); it was the same for Koki Niwa, ousted by Brazil’s Gustavo Tsuboi (11-4, 11-4, 11-5).

The emphatic defeat experienced by Koki Niwa must be of Japanese concern as must the performance of Jun Mizutani; facing German adversaries, he beat Qiu Dang (11-7, 11-6, 11-6), before the defensive skills of Ruwen Filus ended adventures (11-8, 11-7, 11-8).

At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Jun Mizutani ended the drought, if anyone responded to the clarion call it was Jun Mizutani.

He became the first Japanese male athlete to secure a medal in the table tennis events at an Olympic Games when he beat Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus (11-4, 11-9, 6-11, 14-12, 11-8) to secure men’s singles bronze. Later alongside, Koki Niwa and Maharu Yoshimura, silver was secured in the men’s team event.

Moreover, in the men’s team event, Jun Mizutani remained unbeaten; he was his nation’s talisman, he set the example.

In Tokyo who holds that position of responsibility? Will eyes predominantly focus on the now 31 year old Jun Mizutani, or perhaps will the Tokyo Gymnasium be full to the rafters to watch teenager Tomokazu Harimoto?

It promises to be an occasion not to be missed and if the opponent for Tomokazu Harimoto is Dimitrij Ovtcharov; that’s a match I want to see!

Editor:Ian Marshall

 

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