Gold in the Youth Olympic Games and then forward to even greater heights at senior level; for the winner of the men’s singles it has been the policy, for the counterpart women’s singles champion it has been rather different, that is until China’s Sun Yingsha broke the mould.
At the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, play scheduled to start on Saturday 24th July, she makes her debut in the quadrangular spectacular, she is named in the women’s singles event alongside Chen Meng.
Winner of the men’s singles title at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games, Japan’s Koki Niwa is named in the men’s singles event in Tokyo, as is China’s Fan Zhendong, the winner four years later in Nanjing. Not to be omitted, Wang Chuqin, successful in Buenos Aires in 2018, is listed in the Chinese selection, he is named as the reserve player.
Fan Zhendong is a candidate for gold, Koki Niwa is certainly a medal contender; both have ITTF World Tour men’s singles titles to their credit. In comparison, Gu Yuting, the winner of the women’s singles event in Singapore and Liu Gaoyuan, successful in Nanjing have never ascended to such heights; neither is on the Tokyo roster.
Both are fine players and if not Chinese would command a place in the vast majority of national teams. The best women’s singles result on the ITTF World Tour for Gu Yuting is runners up spot in 2017 in Linz, later in the year reaching the penultimate round in the Grand Finals in Astana. Meanwhile, in 2018, Liu Gaoyuan advanced to the semi-final round in Panagyurishte.
In comparison, the progress made by Sun Yingsha, has been grease lightning!
Born in November 2000, notably since June 2017 in Japan when required to qualify, she has won four ITTF World Tour women’s singles titles. Furthermore, her opponents in each final have been most worthy adversaries. In Japan, she accounted for Chen Meng; then in 2019, again in Japan she beat Liu Shiwen, before in Australia overcoming Ding Ning, then in Germany, Mima Ito.
Most significantly, turn the clock back some seven years, when only 13 years of age, only three defeats on the international stage against foreign opposition appear.
She lost to Japan’s Mima Ito in the cadet girls’ team event at the 2014 Asian Junior and Cadet Championships and later in 2019 at the semi-final stage on the ITTF World Tour in Stockholm. However, no doubt a fact taken into selection consideration is that Sun Yingsha has prevailed in the other six meetings when opposing Mima Ito.
The one other reverse was in 2016 at the Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open, in the junior girls’ team competition, she was beaten by the host’s Minnie Soo Wai Yam.
From Youth Olympic Games gold medallist to a place in the Olympic Games in three years is quite incredible; it is even more incredible when you consider that the National Olympic Committee in question is China and has more seasoned players from whom to choose.
Time and again when selecting for major events, China has voted for experience; for Tokyo they have elected youth, a bold move, one that pays great credit to Sun Yingsha.
Editor: Ian Marshall