A special performance, if you are going to beat China, in whatever competition in the table tennis arenas of the world, you don’t need a special performance, you need a very special performance, the performance of your life!
One player who has achieved that distinction is Miu Hirano.
At the forthcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, she does not appear in the women’s singles or mixed doubles events, she lines up alongside Mima Ito and Kasumi Ishikawa in the women’s team competition.
Overall proceedings commence on Saturday 24th July, the team events on Sunday 1st August.
Memorably at the Seamaster 2016 ITTF Women’s World Cup in Philadelphia, she beat Romania’s Elizabeta Samara (11-9, 11-4, 3-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-8), before accounting for colleague Mima Ito (11-13, 11-4, 11-8, 11-4, 11-8).
Progress to the semi-finals, it was in that round, Miu Hirano proved herself.
Only 16 years old at the time, she played as though every point was love-all, there appeared not a tense bone in her body. The tension was in the body of her 30 year old adversary, Singapore’s Feng Tianwei; against the odds Miu Hirano emerged successful in six games (3-11, 11-6, 11-7, 13-11, 9-11, 17-15).
It was a most impressive performance, the final was no different, she accounted for Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching in four straight games (11-9, 11-5, 11-4, 11-8).
Outstanding performances but no Chinese presence, less than one year later in 2017 at the Seamaster Asian Championships in Wuxi, all matches best of five games, China’s stars were present in force.
Miu Hirano caused a sensation.
Following success against Thailand’s Jinippa Sawettabut (11-4, 11-4, 11-5) and Korea Republic’s Lee Zion (12-10, 11-4, 11-3), once again, as in Philadelphia, she confronted Cheng I-Ching. Once again the speed of her play proved too fast, once again a straight games result was posted (11-6, 11-1, 11-9).
Victory in style but surely the end of the road beckoned at the quarter-final stage, she faced Ding Ning, the incumbent world champion. Ding Ning secured the opening game, then won a close second, surely she would steam to victory.
Not so, Miu Hirano played without a care in the world, gay abandon, it could have been Friday night at the local youth club! Ding Ning became tense, as Miu Hirano won the third game before save match points in the fourth and securing the fifth (3-11, 12-14, 11-9, 16-14, 12-10).
Undoubtedly a remarkable success, one to savour but the fact to note was the effect the result had on China. They were shell-shocked, suddenly there was a major rival to their hegemony.
Conversely, Miu Hirano was reveling in every moment, seemingly oblivious to the magnitude of her win, she beat Zhu Yuling in straight games (11-7, 11-9, 11-8) and then did exactly the same when in the final opposing Chen Meng (11-9, 11-8, 11-7).
Quite simply she was brimful of confidence, most importantly she implanted doubts in Chinese minds; if China is not to secure gold, that must happen in Tokyo.
Editor: Ian Marshall