Revisiting Tokyo: Japanese Pair Earn Gold in Mixed Doubles - Butterfly Table Tennis
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Revisiting Tokyo: Japanese Pair Earn Gold in Mixed Doubles

(by Steve Hopkins, photo by ITTF World)

Among the biggest moments of the 2020 Olympics was Japan’s upset of China to win the Mixed Doubles event.  The top two seeds advanced to the Final in Mixed Doubles, but the Chinese pair of Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen were highly favored over Japan’s Mima Ito and Jun Mizutani.  In the end, however, it was the underdogs (and hometown favorites) that surprised the field and landed the Gold.

The last time these two pairs faced each other was the German Open in early 2020.  In that match, it was a dominant 3-1 win for the Chinese pair.  Today, the match started in similar fashion with Xu and Liu winning the first two games easily 11-5, and 11-7.  But the Japanese pair scored a win in the third game, and then won two more very tight games (11-8, 11-9, 11-9).  China then dominated the sixth game to even the score, but the momentum change was only temporary as Mizutani and Ito rolled in the seventh game, winning 11-6 and claiming the gold medal for Japan.  The Bronze went to Chinese Taipei and Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching swept the French team of Lebesson/Yuan 4-0.

One might expect that with China and Japan being the top two seeds, that they would both have had an easy path through to the Finals.  Thina did sweep its way through the early rounds with a 4-1, 4-0, and 4-0 but Japan did not have it so easy.  In the first round, Stefan Fegerl and Sofia Polcanova took one game from Japan in a 4-1 loss.  In the next round, Germany’s Franziska and Solja had a 1-2 and 2-3 lead before Japan overtook them for the 4-3 win.  Japan then topped Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching 4-1, in a game with two 11-9 losses that made it much closer than the score.  That set up the Final between Xu/Liu and Ito/Mizutani.

Early in the match, China rolled.  They won the first game 11-5 and the second game 11-7.  The momentum then shifted with Mizutani working hard to play precise shots – often angled wide to force the Chinese pair to move.  The next three games were close, but it was Japan that won each.  Mizutani and Xu Xin traded great shots and to some degree cancelled each other out – it was Mima Ito who outplayed Liu Shiwen and made the difference.  Still, China fought back for an easy 11-6 win to tie the match score at 3-3.  In the final game, it was all Japan – jumping out early and expanding their lead for a 11-6 win.  Not just a win – an historic win.

The win was Japan’s first gold medal in table tennis.  This was an ideal start for the host country as Mixed Doubles was the first event to conclude.  In the end, Mima Ito also landed a Bronze Medal in Women’s Singles and a Silver Medal in Women’s Teams.  Mizutani went on to score 2 of the 3 points necessary for Japan to secure the Bronze Medal over Korea.



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