Currently listed in second spot on the world rankings, playing on home soil, Mima Ito presents the best ever chance for a player from Japan to secure a medal in a women’s singles event at an Olympic Games.
Proceedings in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games start in the Metropolitan Gymnasium on Saturday 24th July.
In recent times, the Land of the Rising Sun has come close but not close enough. In London, Kasumi Ishikawa experienced a semi-final defeat at the hands of Li Xiaoxia (11-5, 11-4, 11-13, 11-6, 11-7), prior to losing to Singapore’s Feng Tianwei in the bronze medal contest.
Similarly, four years later at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, once again Li Xiaoxia was the penultimate round nemesis, she accounted for Ai Fukuhara (11-4, 11-3, 11-1, 11-1), prior to DPR Korea’s Kim Song I ending podium hopes (11-7, 11-7, 11-5, 12-14, 11-5).
Now a bonus for Mima Ito is that there is no Li Xiaoxia on the Tokyo roster!
Nevertheless, if Mima Ito is to gain a precious women’s singles medal; then it is quite possible she will face Chinese opposition in the guise of either Chen Meng or Sun Yingsha.
Beating a Chinese player of stature always hits the headlines; that fact plays great credit the standards set.
However, considering Mima Ito, it is the member of the Chinese squad present in Tokyo, who is not named in the women’s singles, against whom Mima Ito has the best international record, a certain Liu Shiwen, the reigning world champion.
One must always take age into consideration, there is a 10 year age gap between Mima Ito and Liu Shiwen; later this year in October, Mima Ito will celebrate her 21st birthday; three months ago in April, Liu Shiwen passed the 30 year mark.
At the 2016 Nakheel Asian Cup in Dubai, when only 15 years old, Mima Ito lost the Liu Shiwen but on their next two encounters she prevailed.
At the Liebherr 2018 World Team Championships in Halmstad, she beat Liu Shiwen in the opening encounter in the final; later in the year she repeated the success on the ITTF World Tour in Stockholm. Notably on that occasion she progressed to overcome Ding Ning and Zhu Yuling to seal the title.
One wonders, is that a contributory fact to Liu Shiwen not being selected for the women’s singles event in Tokyo?
Wins against Liu Shiwen, the balance in favour of Mima Ito; it is different against Sun Yingsha and very different when facing Chen Meng.
Opposing Sun Yingsha, a player of the same age, Mima Ito has won only six of their eight encounters; she prevailed in the cadet girls’ team event at the 2014 Asian Junior and Cadet Championships in Mumbai and later at the 2019 ITTF World Tour Swedish Open.
Success in Stockholm meant a place in the final; it was at that stage progress was halted by Chen Meng, a situation that has always been the scenario. They have now met four times on the global stage, Chen Meng has won all four.
A women’s singles medal for Mima Ito in Tokyo; it is well within the bounds of possibility; China is the favourite for podium places, but they can only reserve two steps.
Most significantly against all others on Tokyo duty, Mima Ito has a very good record; can she achieve bronze or even higher? She is the greatest threat to China.
Editor: Ian Marshall