While the 15th edition of the World Junior Table Tennis Championship (WJTTC) to be held in Riva del Garda (Italy) from the 26th November to the 3rd December 2017 comes close, the International Tennis Table Federation (ITTF) has recently published the list of the qualified countries for the Team Event. 20 Boys’ Teams and 20 Girls’ Teams will compete against each other for the title during the first four competition days.
National teams representing 25 countries overall will be part of this huge event. Europe is the most represented continent with eight different delegations; Asia and America follow with both six countries; last but not least, three countries from Africa and two from Oceania, showing how table tennis is definitively played and very popular worldwide.
Having a look of both seeding lists, fifteen countries having both Girls’and Boys’ teams qualified stand out: when young players are furthermore doing well in their own countries, this increases motivation, training, quality and globally the general playing-level for both girls and boys, inspiring each other.
Nevertheless, the success of a team will not necessarily assure the improvement of the other one, as France and Puerto Rico confirmed. France Girls’ Team is not qualified this year, as it was already the case in 2013, while the Boys’ Team achieved great results over the last few years. On the other hand, Puerto Rico Girls’ Team has regularly reached the qualifications and is now present in the Top20 of the World, while the Boys’ Team is not performing equally.
By making a comparison between the junior’s list and the senior one, a sizeable difference comes to light: almost half of the teams in the junior event are not present in the senior event. Concretely, only 11 on 20 national Girls’ Teams and 10 on 20 national Boys’ Teams were involved in the 2016 World Team Table Tennis Championship in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). This difference is even more impressive since the elite competition allows 24 teams in the draw, four more than in the junior event.
How to explain this? Table tennis is growing in countries that we usually do not see in main events such as Algeria, Chile or New Zealand. Many other “unexpected” countries are having great youth improvements that allow them to line up at WJTTC. Therefore, it will be very interesting to see in the coming years if the raising countries will succeed in jumping towards the senior elite.
This development gives an incredible attraction to the upcoming junior event: lot of tomorrow’s new stars will be in the spotlights in Riva del Garda. No wonder if the new countries might make life tough to the traditional countries in the coming ten years.
Last year, Japan had an amazing tournament winning both Girls’ and Boys’ Teams titles. This impressive performance was only previously achieved by China. Before that, Japanese Boys’ Team won the title in 2005 while Japanese Girls’ Team clinched the title in 2010; except those Japanese exceptions, Teams’ event was under complete Chinese domination. After the amazing results for Japan last year in Cape Town (South Africa), China will probably have a strong motivation to bring both Teams titles back.
The Japanese title holders and China are the favorites of the competition, there is no doubt about that. However, it will be really fascinating to see how the raising countries may create a big upset.