Same again, ten medals for Asia
Singapore followed by Nanjing, the first two editions of the Youth Olympic Games had both witnessed Asian players departing proceedings with 10 of the possible 12 medals in their possession; moreover, the continent had always struck gold.
At the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games, organised in the Tecnopolis Arena from Wednesday 7th to Thursday 15th November, the statistics were exactly the same. China, Japan and Chinese Taipei departed with medals; India came close.
The format of previous years was maintained; a total of 32 players in each of the men’s singles and women’s singles events, from those players, 16 pairs formed the mixed team competition.
China’s Wang Chuqin and Sun Yingsha repeated the success enjoyed by Fan Zhendong and Liu Gaoyang, four years earlier when they had won the respective men’s singles and women’s singles titles but with Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto and Miu Hirano on duty, they faced opponents who had proved themselves at senior level. The previous year Tomokazu Harimoto had won the men’s singles event on the ITTF World Tour in the Czech Republic, Miu Hirano had secured the women’s singles title at the Asian Championships in Wuxi.
In five games Wang Chuqin beat Tomokazu Harimoto (11-8, 5-11, 11-1, 13-11, 11-9) to secure men’s singles gold; in a similar contest, Sun Yingsha reserved the top step of the women’s singles podium by overcoming Miu Hirano (13-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-6).
Bronze medal in the men’s singles went to Kanak Jha of the United States who accounted for Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju by the narrowest of decisions (6-11, 11-7, 13-11, 11-3, 8-11, 11-9); in the counterpart women’s singles contest Romania’s Andreea Dragoman prevailed against India’s Archana Girish Kamath (8-11, 13-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-9).
Tension was evident, even more so in the mixed team event, revenge was in the air.
In the gold medal contest, Sun Yingsha escaped from the brink of defeat against Miu Hirano in the fourth game of the opening contest (11-4, 7-11, 7-11, 15-13, 11-1), before Tomokazu Harimoto overcame Wang Chuqin to avenge his singles defeat (9-11, 11-7, 12-10, 11-3). One can only wonder, how different might the outcome have been had Miu Hirano secured that dramatic fourth game.
Matters level, Wang Chuqin and Sun Yingsha duly combined to win the doubles (11-8, 11-6, 12-14, 11-5).
Narrow margins, it was the same in the bronze medal contest; Lin Yun-Ju and colleague Su Pei-Ling eventually overcoming the European combination of Sweden’s Truls Moregard and Serbia’s Sabina Surjan.
Sabina Surjan gave her team the ideal start by beating Su Pei-Ling (11-9, 14-12, 11-8), before Lin Yun-Ju overcame Truls Moregard (10-12, 12-10,17-15, 11-5). The contest in the balance there could not have been a more dramatic conclusion, by the minimum two point margin the decision went in favour of Chinese Taipei (11-13, 11-7, 11-7, 3-11, 13-11).
Eight Olympic Games and three Youth Olympic Games concluded, all in their own way unique; undoubtedly with the recent pandemic affecting preparations, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will be very different but whatever precautions have to be put in place, no doubt as enthralling as ever.
Editor: Ian Marshall