On the eve of the World Junior Table Tennis Championships in Riva del Garda, the big question was whether – after last year’s exploit – Japan would confirm its prevailance over China at the youth level. On Sunday December 3rd, after eight days of show at the Baltera Expo Center, the answer couldn’t be clearer: China’s domination is back.
All the gold medals of the 2017 World Junior Champs will fly on the way to Beijing tomorrow, a result of China’s leadership from a technical point of view in every discipline of the sport: team event, singles and doubles.
The final day assigned five titles: first was the Mixed Doubles, whose final was won by Xue Fei/Wang Manyu (China) against An Jaehyun/Kim Jiho (South Korea) by 4-1. Against China vs South Korea in the Boys Doubles, with the same score and outcome: Wang Chuqin/Xue Fei celebrated at the expense of An Jaehyun/Baek Hogyun. An all-Chinese final between Shi Xunyao/Sun Yingsha and Qian Tianyi/Wang Manyu ended the Girls Doubles tournament: the former duo won it by 4:3, at the end of a tightly contested game.
Huge expectations surrounded the singles finals. Once again it was a Chinese final between Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu, number 1 and 2 in the seeding respectively. The duel went the full distance, and eventually crowned Sun by 4:3 after Wang had failed the match point that would have given her third career World Junior title.
The day’s dominator was definitely Xue Fei, who took home three titles on the day: after Mixed and Boys Doubles, Xue deservedly claimed the gold medal of the Boys Singles with a 4:1 victory over – arguably – the biggest sensation of these World Championships. Contending the throne to the class-1999 Chinese was a 15-year-old Swede, already showing a significant deal of character.
Truls Moregard isn’t technically a junior: at 15, he would be entitled to play in the Cadets category. Nevertheless, as #17 seed, he made his way through the tournament tree by beating no less than four of the seeding’s top-10: first USA’s Kha, then the #2 seed, Japan’s Kizukuri, and finally two Chinese players – Xu Haidong and #3 Niu Guankai, the latter in today’s semifinal.
After a whole season affected by an injury, in 2017 Moregard played at a good level but lost many close games to high-level opponents. “Those defeats were a major learning experience for me,” he said, “now I know how to win those matches. I have always believed in my game, and I know I am capable of winning an event like this.” The clash against Xue, who is three years older, highlighted his great qualities from a technical and tactical point of view, and even some exuberance typical of his age. But, as a matter of fact, he is only the third European to reach the finals in the singles since the creation of the World Junior Championships.
Today, Moregard celebrates an unexpected silver, but Sweden (and Europe) hope to have finally found a heir of Jan-Owe Waldner – someone who managed to win the World Chanmpionhips, even at the senior level. Truls, whose play is inspired to to Waldner himself, has the time and talent to dream big.
Italy can celebrate a successful edition of the World Junior Championships, from both sports and organizational points of view. “Matteo Mutti’s presence among the World’s top-8 was an incredible and unexpected achievement” – said Italian Table Tennis Federation President Renato Di Napoli. “We are also happy of the girls’ team performance, whilst something more could be expected from the boys’ team. We feel happy that ITTF, ETTU and other National Federations have praised us for this beautiful event, that confirmed the excellence of Riva del Garda and Garda Trentino from an organizational point of view.”