Table tennis: Japanese prodigy, 12, eyes Olympics

TAIPEI, July 29, 2013 – Twelve-year-old Japanese table tennis prodigy Mima Ito has set her sights on challenging China’s hegemony at the next Olympics after once again wowing audiences in Taiwan.

Ito won the under-15 and under-18 events at the Chinese Taipei Junior and Cadet Open over the weekend, retaining the titles she won two years ago at the age of just 10.

“I am very happy to have won this double title for the second time after two years,” she said in an International Table Tennis Federation press release.

“Two years ago my technique was very basic and I won purely on my reflexes. This year, I have a much higher level of technique. I learned a lot of new shots and variations to assist my play.”

Ito caused a sensation when she won in 2011. Then, the child star was mobbed by fans and had people queueing for 30 minutes for an autograph.

Now Ito, who will be too young to compete in next year’s Youth Olympics in China, is hoping to break the Chinese stranglehold on the sport at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“It is a shame that I can’t compete in Nanjing 2014, but my complete focus is making the Japanese team for the 2016 Olympic Games,” she said.

“It would be a dream come true to be a part of the Japanese team that won silver at London 2012, and try to do one better in Rio. I can then hopefully compete in Argentina for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games!”

China completed their second consecutive clean-sweep of the titles at last year’s Olympics, with Japan finishing second in the women’s team event.