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China, Japan, USA: Top Three at the Youth Olympics Games

China, Japan, USA: Top Three at the Youth Olympics Games

China, Japan, USA: Top Three at the Youth Olympics Games
(by Steve Hopkins/Photo courtesy of ITTF)

The singles competition concluded on Wednesday in Buenos Aires at the 3rd Youth Olympic Games.  The event mirrors the Summer Olympics covering a wide range of sports as well as cultural and educational events.  The games will run from October 6 to 18 and have brought athletes aged fifteen to eighteen from more than 200 countries.
Table tennis singles events began with group play on October 7.  The top 16 group finishers then advanced to single elimination.
On the Men’s side, the top three seeds in this juniors’ event were Tomokazu Harimoto, Kanak Jha, and Truls Moregard who have each made their respective national teams (Japan, USA, Sweden) and have been heralded with hopes to be the next great champion from those countries.  In the ITTF World Rankings for men Harimoto is No. 8, Kanak Jha is No. 67, and Truls Moregard is No. 173.
Harimoto and Jha each progressed through the group play and advanced to the semifinals easily.  Moregard lost in the quarterfinals to the Chinese representative, Wang Chuqin by a score of 4-1.  Wang then faced Jha in one semifinal and Harimoto faced the fourth semifinalist, Yun-Ju Lin of Taipei.
Harimoto had his hands full with Yun-Ju Lin, in one semifinal match.  He lost the first game before storming back to win the next three.  But the Game 2 and Game 3 wins were both after several deuces.  After going up 3-1, Harimoto should have had the match in hand, but the momentum shifted and Lin won games 5 and 6.  Ultimately, the final game went to Harimoto and he moved on to the final.  Harimoto over Lin 4-3 (-6, 11, 12, 4, -9, -5, 6).
Despite the presence of three well-known and well-established junior players (Harimoto, Jha, and Moregard), the story of this tournament is China’s Wang Chuqin.  After defeating the third seeded  Moregard in the quarterfinal, he faced Kanak Jha in the semifinal and was dominant.  Wang won in straight sets winning 4-0 (7, 7, 5, 4).  Wang then faced Hariomoto in the final and played yet another strong match.  Want outlasted Harimoto in the first game to claim an 11-8 win.  Harimoto then jumped out to an early lead and won the second game easily.  Game three was an 11-1 rout for Want to regain the lead.  The next two games were close, but Wang won both and closed out the match.  Wang over Harimoto 4-1 (8, -5, 1, 11, 9).
Harimoto has proven his ability to perform consistently among the World’s Elite and should have many years in the future challenging for championships.  Similarly, Jha continues to rise in the rankings and may help move the USA to new heights and Moregard at age 16 should be a factor in Sweden soon.  All of that said, this story is all about Wang Chuqin jumping the line and showing he is good enough to graduate from the junior ranks and take on the world’s best.   China appears ready to reload with yet another great, young player.
Kanak Jha claimed the bronze medal for the USA by defeating Lin in the consolation match.  In a match with scores very similar to the Harimoto/Lin match earlier in the day, Lin won the first match before Jha won three in a row.  Lin then fought back to tie the match, only to see Jha win the final game.  Jha over Lin 4-3 (-6, 7, 11, 3, -8, -4, 9).
yog-kanak2
Kanak Jha issued the following statement congratulating his opponent and thanking his fans and team:
I am extremely happy to have won a Bronze Medal for USA at the Youth Olympic Games here in Argentina. After a tough loss against China in the semis, I fought hard and gave it my all against Lin Yun-Ju (Chinese Taipei) for the Bronze Medal.
Thanks to all my fans, friends and supporters. Thanks to my coach Stefan for seeing me through this. Thanks to Butterfly Japan, Butterfly USA, USATT, coaches Dirk Wagner and Joerg Bitzigeio and Mikael Andersson for the opportunities and guidance. I really appreciate it sincerely.
Mixed Team events are continuing, with Amy Wang and Kanak Jha representing the USA.  The event will conclude on October 15.

 
Visit ButterflyOnline.com for updates throughout the event

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