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Japan wins 1st table tennis medal

Publication Date : 09-08-2012

 

Japan won its first-ever medal in table tennis Tuesday, but failed to snare the gold after being beaten by China 3-0 in the women's team final.

Meanwhile, the women's volleyball team defeated China in a thrilling quarterfinal that went to five sets to book a spot in the top four for the first time since the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

In other action, the Japanese men's soccer team scored first against Mexico in the semifinal, only to lose 3-1 in the end.

Fukuhara: I did best I could

The women's table tennis team of Ai Fukuhara, Kasumi Ishikawa and Sayaka Hirano made history by beating Singapore in Sunday's semifinal, but China was too strong in the final.

With Fukuhara and Ishikawa losing their singles matches 3-1 and 3-0, respectively, the Japanese team's path to the gold became more difficult.

Although Ishikawa and Hirano played tenaciously to the bitter end in the doubles that followed, they were unable to get past the great wall of China.

After the final, Fukuhara, 23, said: "I did the best I could at the Olympics. This silver medal is the result of it, so I'm so happy to win it."

First-time Olympian Ishikawa, 19, said, "The Chinese team was so strong, that's how I feel now," while veteran Hirano, 27, said, "Right now, I feel half mortified and half happy."

The silver medals in London mark milestones for the three players--particularly 19-year-old Ishikawa, who will continue her professional career more independently when she turns 20.

On the night when Ishikawa secured a medal by winning the semifinal, her mother, Kumi, said: "She doesn't need me anymore. I can send her forth with peace of mind." In the past few years, Kumi looked after her daughter as a coach and manager.

For Fukuhara, the medal fulfilled a promise.

In May last year, she visited Sendai--where she was born and raised--with the bronze medal that she won in the mixed doubles at the World Table Tennis Championships. There she declared, "I'll definitely bring back a medal from the Olympics."

As a player who has greatly contributed to promoting Japan's table tennis as well as one of the foremost figures in the Japanese sporting world, Fukuhara will certainly continue to be involved in a wide range of activities.

Asked about the next Olympics, Hirano expressed her aspiration to work with Fukuhara and Ishikawa as they prepare for Rio de Janeiro.

But she has also said, "If I win my first medal in the Olympics, I'd like to pass [that experience] to younger players [of Japan] someday."

Hirano's active mind, always focused on table tennis, eventually led her to silver. That quality will make her a great coach.

Volleyballers reach semifinal

The women's volleyball team has reached the Olympic semifinals for the first time since 1988 after beating China in a thrilling quarterfinal that went to the full five sets.

China had one match point in the fifth set, but Japan successfully won the next point and went on win the 133-minute match with Hitomi Nakamichi's ace.

Ace spiker Saori Kimura, who competed in the past three Olympics, said mental strength had been the key to Japan's victory.

"It was an amazing match. But we had a strong will to win until the end," she said.

Japan won gold at the 1964 Tokyo and 1976 Montreal Olympics. But it has not won any medal since the 1984 Los Angeles Games, when it won the bronze.

The Japan women's team was eliminated in straight sets in the quarterfinals of the previous two Olympic Games.

Coach Masayoshi Manabe was not getting too carried away with the win.

"To win a medal, we must get through the next match," he said.

In the semifinals, Japan will face defending champion Brazil, which defeated Russia 3-2 in quarterfinal play.

The United States and South Korea will contest the other semifinal. The U.S. team won in straight sets against the Dominican Republic in the quarterfinals, while South Korea dropped the first set against Italy but won the next three.

 

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