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Olympic Games: Koki Niwa excels alone

Tuesday 29 June

 

Present in both London and Rio de Janeiro, the name of Koki Niwa once again appears on the Japanese team sheet; at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games he will be on duty in both the men’s singles and men’s team events.

 

 

Play commences in the Metropolitan Gymnasium on Saturday 24th July.

Only 26 years old but he seems to have been present for an eternity; only 14 years old at the time, in 2009 he announced his arrival.

Competing in the ITTF World Junior Circuit Finals in the Swedish city of Helsingborg, he won the boys’ singles event; in the later round rounds accounting for Romania’s Hunor Szocs, Frenchman Thomas Le Breton and in the final Egypt’s Omar Assar.

 

However, it was at the ensuing H.I.S 2009 World Championships in Yokohama when he made his mark; the media flocking to interview this child prodigy.

 

In the men’s singles, in the qualification stage he beat Omar Rashid of the United Arab Emirates, Turkmenistan’s Khurshed Soliboev, the Czech Republic’s Josef Simoncek and Slovenia’s Uros Slatinsek to reserve his place in the main draw. The good form continued, he ousted Argentina’s Liu Song before losing to Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

The performance in Yokohama very much sums up Koki Niwa; he appears to perform better in individual events than in team excursions, for many it is the reverse scenario.

 

Only competing in the men’s team at the London 2012 Olympic Games, in his singles matches he beat André Ho as Japan recorded a 3-0 win against Canada. It was the only match he won; later when opposing Hong Kong, in a 3-2 overall defeat, in the fifth and deciding march, he lost to Tang Peng.

Four years later in the men’s team event in Rio de Janeiro, he did not win a singles match! 

 

In a 3-2 win when facing Poland he lost to Jakub Dyas, at the quarter-final stage against Hong Kong he was the only loser, once again suffering against Tang Peng. At the semi-final stage, Japan recording a 3-1 against Germany, he did not compete in the singles; in the final, a 3-0 defeat at the hands of China, somewhat understandably he lost to a certain Ma Long.

 

Sandwiched in between, at the Liebherr 2018 World Team Championships in Halmstad, he appeared in only four fixtures. In three-nil wins;against Belgium, he beat Cédric Nuytinck,confronting Belarus he overcame Pavel Platonov, facing Hong Kong he defeated Lam Sui Hang. However, in the group phase when opposing England, in a 3-1 overall defeat, he lost to Sam Walker.

Now compare those results with men’s singles events.

 

At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, he beat Nigeria’s Segun Toriola, followed by success against Austria’s Stefan Fegerl and Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting before at the quarter-final stage losing to China’s Zhang Jike.

 

Likewise, one year later at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships in Düsseldorf and in 2019 in Budapest he reached the quarter-finals.

 

In Düsseldorf he accounted for Austria’s Andreas Levenko, Singapore’s Gao Ning, Denmark’s Jonathan Groth and Germany’s Fan Zhendong, prior to Fan Zhendong ended progress.

 

Similarly, in Bratislava he overcame Paraguay’s Marcelo Aguirre, England’s Paul Drinkhall, Poland’s Jakub Dyjas and Croatia’s Tomislav Pucar, before Liang Jingkun ended adventures.

 

Same again in Tokyo or one round further, a possible men’s singles medal?

 

Editor: Ian Marshall

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