Prior to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in the women’s events the major threat to Chinese dominance was seen in the form of the host nation’s Mima Ito; when matters concluded, and all had left the arena at the end of the closing ceremony on Sunday 8th August, that fact had been endorsed.
Only 20 years old, throughout the whole tournament, she was beaten by just one adversary, the perfect antidote, China’s Sun Yingsha. She lost to the player, 14 days her junior, at the semi-final stage of the women’s singles and in the final of the women’s team.
Nevertheless, Mima Ito wrote her name indelibly into the history books of the Olympic Games.
Partnering Jun Mizutani, she was key to Japan’s first ever gold medal in the table tennis events at an Olympic Games.
Also, the introduction of the mixed doubles meant she became the first and only player in the table tennis events to secure medals of every colour at the same Olympic Games; mixed doubles (gold), women’s team (silver), women’s singles (bronze).
Additionally, she became only the second woman to own the full range of medal colours.
Representing China, in 1988 in Seoul, Chen Jing won women’s singles gold and partnering Jiao Zhimin, women’s doubles gold. Changing allegiance to Chinese Taipei, she was the women’s singles silver medallist in 1996 in Atlanta, the bronze medallist in 2000 in Sydney.
China’s Liu Guoliang is the only male player to own all three colours; in 1996 in Atlanta, he won men’s singles gold, in 2000 in Sydney men’s singles bronze and partnering Kong Linghui, men’s doubles silver.
Another place in the history books for Mima Ito, who in Rio de Janeiro, some five years earlier had also etched her name in the annals. On Tuesday 16th August 2016, she become the youngest medallist in the table tennis events at an Olympic Games when she secured bronze in the women’s team event.
She was 15 years and 301 days old.
The youngest medallist in Japanese hands, the Land of the Rising Sun now owns the name of the youngest male; on Friday 6th August, when he secured bronze in the men’s team event, Tomokazu Harimoto was 18 years and 49 days old.
Editor: Ian Marshall
Photo Credit: ITTF