RIO DE JANEIRO - World No. 6 Kasumi Ishikawa crashed out of the women’s table tennis singles tournament at the Rio Olympics on Sunday after suffering a cramp in her leg, losing 4-3 to North Korea’s Kim Song I in their third-round match.
After winning the first two games 11-7, 11-7, Ishikawa began to grab at her right calf, apparently in pain.
The discomfort was soon transferred to the table as the right-handed defensive chopper Kim used all her guile to keep the ball in play, making Ishikawa work for every point and at the same time looking like she was exacerbating her opponent’s suffering.
Kim won the third game 11-9 and the fourth by the same score to even the match. Ishikawa then rallied to take the fifth by two points but was now showing visible pain on her face between points.
Kim showed no mercy, however, taking the final two games 11-9, 11-8 to send the four-time and reigning Japanese singles champion packing in her first match of Rio 2016.
“I got off to a very good start so I’m very disappointed that I couldn’t keep my lead,” Ishikawa said, maintaining the cramp did not affect her performance. “I got a bit defensive and that was unfortunate.”
Ishikawa is a key member of Japan’s highly rated women’s team trio seeking a second consecutive Olympic medal.
Earlier Sunday, men’s singles campaigner Koki Niwa won his first match, taking down Nigeria’s Segun Toriola 4-2.
“I went at full throttle right from the start,” said the 21-year-old Niwa. “There are nerves but I also feel happy to be playing on this (big) stage.”
Niwa and Toriola shared the first four games, but when the Japanese really committed, it was not close. Niwa ran off the last two games 11-6, 11-1 to move on to his next opponent, Austria’s Stefan Fegerl.
“I got to 10-0 in the last game, was able to get on a roll. I want to keep that image in my mind for the third round,” Niwa said.
The last Japanese player to appear on the Rio 2016 tables was Jun Mizutani, but he was not there for long. The Japanese No. 1 beat Greece’s Panagiotis Gionis 4-1 and will take on Brazil’s Hugo Calderano in the fourth round.