Five table tennis players to watch at the Tokyo Olympics:
Fan Zhendong (China)
World number one and former Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games champion Fan Zhendong will make his Olympic Games debut and lead the powerful Chinese men’s team, alongside Ma Long and Xu Xin.
He joined the Chinese national table tennis team as the youngest member of the team at the age of 15 and has since become a key player in the sport. Known for his explosive style of play and footwork, he is a four-time Men’s World Cup champion of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).
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At 24, Fan hopes to add the Olympics to his long list of accomplishments.
Tomokazu Harimoto (Japan)
Another Olympic debutant is Tomokazu Harimoto, who is a favorite for a medal at the Games this summer.
The 18-year-old set unprecedented records, including becoming the youngest winner of the ITTF World Tour men’s singles in 2017 and the ITTF World Tour Grand Final men’s singles the following year, among many others.
Success in table tennis belongs to Harimoto’s family – he is the son of two former Chinese professional table tennis players who moved to Japan before Harimoto was born, and his younger sister Miwa won three World Tour titles. junior ITTF 2020 in the Czech Republic.
Hend Zaza (Syria)
Zaza is expected to be the youngest table tennis player to compete in the Olympics this year. Born in Hama, Syria, into a sports family, the 12-year-old started playing table tennis at the age of five.
She has only been able to participate in two or three away matches a year due to the war, her coach Adham Jamaan said. But Zaza broke all records after winning the West Asia Olympic qualifying tournament in Jordan last year, becoming the first Syrian paddler to qualify for the Olympics.
Mama Ito (Japan)
Ito is a central figure for the Japanese team this summer, as she holds winning records against some Chinese paddlers linked to the Olympics. Known for her fast attack and constantly evolving style of play, the 20-year-old is second in the women’s singles world rankings, the only non-Chinese athlete in the top five.
She played a central role in securing the bronze medal for the women’s team competition at the Olympic Games in Rio five years ago, becoming the youngest Olympic table tennis medalist.
Fans will also be looking for his mixed doubles match, where Ito and compatriot Jun Mizutani hope to make history as the first-ever mixed doubles champion.
Quadri Aruna (Nigeria)
Aruna became the first African to reach the Olympic quarter-finals after defeating former world number one German paddler Timo Boll at the Rio 2016 Games. This year, the 32-year-old will look to move closer to the final in his third Olympics. appearance.
He is also known for his philanthropic work and contributions off the pitch, often donating table tennis equipment to Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, and encouraging aspiring Nigerian athletes to pursue their dreams.