Ishigaki replaces Fukuhara for worlds

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

An unexpected phone call turned out to be surprising, but a pleasant one for Yuka Ishigaki when the 24-year-old table tennis player learned she would replace the injured Ai Fukuhara in the upcoming Japan Table 2014, the World Team Table Tennis Championships.

The Japan Table Tennis Association on Wednesday announced at a news conference that Ishigaki joins Kasumi Ishikawa, Sayaka Hirano, Saki Tashiro and Sakura Mori on the women’s national team and takes over for Fukuhara, who withdrew from the competition due to a fractured foot.

But it was just 10 minutes after the media knew the replacement when Ishigaki received the news. Ichiro Hoshino, a JTTA official, called Ishigaki, who did not attend the news conference, in front of the media to inform her of the news and ask her for a comment, which drew laughters from the media.

“Fukuhara’s absence is a big loss for Japan,” Ishigaki said, according to Hoshino. “Now that I was chosen as the replacement, I’ll do whatever role that is given to me and play to meet fan’s expectations.”

Yasukazu Murakami, the Japan women’s team coach, explained the reasons for picking up Ishigaki are her world ranking (36th), experience in international meets, cutting techniques and shake-hand style that would give Japan an edge over preliminary-round opponents — Belarus, United States, Hungary, Taiwan and Australia.

The Japan Table 2014 is scheduled for April 28 to May 5 at National Yoyogi No. 1 Gymnasium and Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. Men and women play separately and each play best-of-three singles matches. No doubles matches are played.

Japan men’s national team members are Jun Mizutani, Kenta Matsudaira, Koki Niwa and Masato Shiono. Japan’s men play Greek, Romania, France, Portugal and Hungary in the preliminary round.