Harimoto on the verge of ITTF World Tour History

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Tomokazu Harimoto

Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto has the chance to become the youngest ever ITTF World Tour Champion, after the 13-year-old made it into the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour India Open Men’s Singles final.

The 2016 Junior World Champion will play world number six, and London 2012 bronze medalist Dimitrij Ovtacharov (GER) in the final today for his chance to write his name into the history books again.

Harimoto, who is coached by his father is no stranger to breaking records, being the youngest ITTF World Tour under 21 champion at just 12 years of age, and the youngest Junior World Champion at 13.

Harimoto is now the youngest ever finalist at 13 years and 237 days old, but if the Japanese sensation wins, he will break YU Ziyang’s (CHN) record of being the youngest ITTF World Tour winner at 16 years and 30 days old when Yu won the 2014 ITTF World Tour Japan Open.

On heading into the biggest match of his life, Harimoto stated: “I have been practicing long long hours. I was around 4 years old when I started playing table tennis. I have been working hard ever since.I never expected that I will be in finals, so I am very happy.”

“This is my first final at the World Tour, I am thrilled to be here. I am not thinking about the rankings and records. The crowd has been fantastic, and I am looking forward to the final.”

This feat will not be easy, as Ovtacharov has won his last two events over the past weeks, and has regain the form that has made him the most feared European player.

The women’s final will be contested between Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm and Japan’s Sakura Mori.

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WATCH: Joo Saehyuk - Ask A Pro Anything

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Legendary Korean defender Joo Saehyuk was the latest player to take part in the ITTF's #AskAProAnything challenge, giving the fans a rare glimpse into one of table tennis' most renowned players.

Joo, the 2003 World Championships runner-up and a silver medallist at the London Olympics in 2012, says he got into table tennis because he didn't like to study. Realizing this, his parents pushed him towards sports, which ultimately led to his table tennis career.

The table tennis legend is a huge sports fan, especially Premier League football, as well as baseball in America and Korea. He enjoys playing other sports, including football, baseball, basketball, and volleyball.

Outside of sport, Joo says he loves listening to Queen, citing Bohemian Rhapsody as one of his favorite songs.
Watch the 37-year-old provide a short rendition of the classic rock hit uploaded to ITTF's official YouTube channel!



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Men's table tennis team pick up Laureus awards

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The Chinese Rio 2016 Olympic Table Tennis Men’s Team has claimed the Male Athlete of the Year, Most Popular Male Athlete of the Year and the Outstanding Achievement awards at the China Top 10 Benefiting Laureus Sports for Good Awards night held yesterday, 15 December in Beijing, China.

The China Top 10 Benefiting Laureus Sports for Good Awards is the collaboration between the internationally renowned Laureus World Sports Awards and the Top 10 Chinese Athletes Awards, and is the most significant awards for athletes in China.

Crowned the ITTF Male Table Tennis Star at the Seamaster Qatar 2016 ITTF Star Awards a week ago in Doha, Rio 2016 Olympic Champion MA Long was named the Male Athlete of the Year last night.

Upon receiving his award, MA shared “First, I want to thank Laureus Awards, thank the jury for their recognition of my effort in the past year. Secondly, I want to thank Chinese table tennis team, this team not only taught me how to play table tennis, but also taught me values to be a better person. When the national flag rose at the Rio Olympic Games (victory ceremony), that moment was worth all our efforts.”

The world number one added “I also want to thank all the predecessors of the Chinese national table tennis team. We will continuous to guard our honor and spread the spirit of our national sport. Our generation did it!”

Despite losing the Men’s Singles Final to MA in Rio to settle for a Silver medal, London 2012 Olympic Champion ZHANG Jike still won the hearts of millions in China during the Rio Olympic Games. Being one of the most followed Chinese athlete, and with his vast popularity amongst fans in China, ZHANG received the Most Popular Male Athlete of the Year award.

The two-time World Champion said “I have to thank all my fans and all the people who love and support our athletes. You are the one who gave us strength to go further. In the next year, I will work harder to bring more honor to our team and our country.”

According to statistics released by Sina Sports, the Grand Slam Champion alone accounted for 10% of all Olympic related searches during the Rio Olympic Games in August on Sina Weibo, which is the primarily used social media platform in China.

Troubled with injuries and sickness, ZHANG remains positive about his condition, stating “It is common for athletes to get injured, it is better to remain positive. After all, I completed my duty in the Olympic Games. Now, I am facing the last few years of my career, I still cherish these opportunities. I will persevere and continue to play for as long as possible.”

The Chinese Team’s head coach LIU Guoliang added one more honor to his collection by winning the “Outstanding Achievements” award at the China Top 10 Benefiting Laureus Sports for Good Awards. LIU, who was also named the 2016 ITTF Star Coach last week at the ITTF Star Awards, has led the Chinese Table Tennis Men’s Team to all major titles available in the year, including 2016 World Team Champion, 2016 Men’s World Cup Champion, Rio 2016 Olympic Singles Champion, Rio 2016 Olympic Team Champion.

During the awards ceremony, the Star Coach made a heartfelt shout out to his team: “Normally, I am cruel and harsh. My soft words & gentleness to you will bring back the cruelty from your rivals. Only when you win the matches in Olympics, I will kiss you because that proud feeling comes from the bottom of my heart. In the new circle, I hope you prepare yourself because I am still going to be harsh. We will start (this new cycle) again together.”

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