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Olympic Games: responding on home soil

Thursday 27 May

Playing on home soil, the nation expects; does that increase the pressure which may cause a performance of a lower level or conversely does it motivate and create one of a higher standard?

It is a crucial factor for Japan in the team events at the forthcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the competition commencing on Sunday 1st August.

The answer for one player in particular would appear to be the latter, the name in question that of Kasumi Ishikawa.

Turn the clock back seven years to when she was 21 years old.

At the 2014 World Team Championships staged in the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, the very same premises that will host proceedings at the forthcoming Olympic Games, lining up alongside Sayaka Hirano and Yuka Ishigaki, Kasumi Ishikawa excelled.

Safely through the group stage with a perfect record, at the quarter-final stage, Japan faced the Netherlands. In the second match of the fixture, Kasumi Ishikawa lost to Li Jiao by the very narrowest of margins (9-11, 11-8, 11-9, 7-11, 12-10); eventually the overall contest went the full distance.

In the vital fifth and deciding match, Kasumi Ishikawa confronted Britt Eerland. She won the first two games but then Britt Eerland, diligently coached by Elena Timina, mounted a recovery. She won the next two games, before winning the first two points of the fifth.

Matters did not look bright for the Land of the Rising Sun; to her great credit, Kasumi Ishikawa did not panic, she followed the very simple principle of keeping the ball on the table longer than her opponent; the fact she did not panic, did not rush, played patiently, turned the tide.

She lost just four more points (11-8, 11-7, 8-11, 9-11, 11-6); the hall erupted.

A place in the semi-finals secured. Facing Hong Kong, Kasumi Ishikawa accounted for both Jiang Huajun (8-11, 11-8, 6-11, 11-9, 11-6) and Lee Ho Ching (11-4, 8-11, 10-12, 11-9, 11-7) in a 3-1 team win.

Through to the final, it was defeat at the hands of China, Kasumi Ishikawa losing to Li Xiaoxia (11-8, 11-7, 11-7).

A silver medal the outcome, most importantly on home soil, Kasumi Ishikawa had raised her level, responded in style; a good omen as Tokyo 2020 looms ever closer.

Editor: Ian Marshall

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