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14-year-old Tomokazu Harimoto becomes youngest national table tennis singles champion

Kyodo

Fourteen-year-old Tomokazu Harimoto became Japan’s youngest national table tennis singles champion on Sunday, beating Rio de Janeiro bronze medalist Jun Mizutani 4-2 in the men’s final.

Harimoto fought aggressively throughout his 11-9, 11-5, 8-11, 11-2, 6-11, 11-5 victory and snapped Mizutani’s hopes of winning his 10th national title at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

“My opponent had more experience, so I tried to fight aggressively,” Harimoto said. “I figured I had nothing to lose.”

Harimoto, who also defeated Mizutani at last year’s world championships, said he hopes to boost his momentum and top the podium at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“I want to work hard and defeat good foreign players too, and win gold in Tokyo,” he said.

Mizutani had been the youngest men’s champ, winning his first national title at the age of 17, while Miu Hirano won a women’s crown when she was 16.

In women’s singles, Mima Ito defeated Hirano 4-1 in the final en route to her third championship at the seven-day meet following titles in mixed doubles and women’s doubles. Ito is the fourth triple winner and, at 17, the youngest.

Ito took the initiative throughout in her 11-7, 11-9, 11-2, 5-11, 11-6 victory over Hirano, a bronze medalist at last year’s world championships. The victory provided some long-awaited revenge against Hirano.

“I played with all of the strength I have and that worked out,” Ito said. “I lost 4-0 in the final two years ago, and I knew that I could only get my payback here.”