BASEL, SWITZERLAND – After successfully defending their women’s doubles crown at the Badminton World Championships on Sunday, Wakana Nagahara and Mayu Matsumoto were lauded by the first women to claim the title at the inaugural tournament in 1977.
Retired badminton players Etsuko Toganoo and Emiko Ueno congratulated their fellow countrywomen on winning their second consecutive title and cheered them on towards victory at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
Toganoo and Ueno had been invited by the Badminton World Federation to watch the tournament live in Switzerland along with other 1977 medalists in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the sport’s marquee event.
Ueno, 61, said she was surprised at how much the 23-year-old Nagahara and 24-year-old Matsumoto had grown since their maiden win in China last year, saying “it should have been tough mentally, pursuing a position you have to win.”
This year, Japan won six medals overall and at least one in each of the five contests, with Kento Momota also defending his world title in the men’s singles.
Nagahara and Matsumoto faced Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota in an all-Japan final in the women’s doubles, while Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi finished runners-up in the men’s doubles. Nozomi Okuhara settled for silver in the women’s singles contest.
“Nowadays, no matter how many tournaments I watch, there are still a few (Japanese players) left until the final,” Toganoo, 69, said. “We are cheering them on and just can’t help being so happy.”
Led by Nagahara and Matsumoto, Japanese pairs hold the top three spots in the women’s doubles world rankings with less than a year to go until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“Since Japan occupies the top ranks, everyone will have high expectations for the Olympics,” Ueno said.
“I think it will be really tough, but if they can somehow get through, I want Japan to win a lot of medals.”
Olympic berths in 2020 badminton events will be based on the world rankings at the end of next April. Japan does not automatically earn host nation spots in the doubles events and will need two pairs to finish in the top eight to secure the maximum berth.