Can They Climb a Mountain ?

Jun Mizutani – the key player for the Japanese team when taking in Hong Kong- China tommorrow.

With some four more days to go (table tennis)   in London 2012 the Olympic Blues has arrived. By now,  people with access to the good cards have seen all the arenas and are perhaps queuing to get into the hot events – athletics and basketball mainly. Team sports like Handball – Volleyball is finishing up a long opening run and getting down to business.

In our sport we have arrived to the matches that should, in a perfect TT world, provide some fireworks – the quarterfinals for women and for men.     The women’s event features some interesting matches and my feeling is that Germany will come to play against a Japanese team who as always are   under immense pressure to succeed.

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The men’s team session last night offered some drama and it was nice to see the Swedish team putting on a fight against the favored Germans. Timo Boll certainly looked nervous and had big problems to control his otherwise effective service and did not move well at all “playing on straight legs” to use a quote from the Danish High Performance Director Peter Sartz.    In the second match – the turnaround for Germany and Dimitrij Ovtcharov came more like a gift from heaven when Per Gerell misjudged a fairly poor service from Dima and pulled it net out when leading 8-6 in the seventh game. Too bad for the Swedes – and too bad for Per Gerell who continues to struggle, seemingly in high pressure matches.  That’s the tough part to work with for the Swedish coach Ulf Carlsson. Backhand – forehand – the right tactics  and all that kind of stuff  is far easier to correct than mental barriers forced by pressure to perform – fueled by own or outside expectations.

Enough said – Germany moves on and will play Austria tomorrow in a match that I must believe that they will win.  Personally I am looking forward to the match between Japan and Hong Kong – China.  My eyes in that match will be on Koki NIWA – a player that must pass the test for Japan to win. Let’s also hope that the Japanese boys will show some manhood in the finishing stages to this competition.

I remember my discussion with the ITTF Executive Committee member – the strong man in Japanese table tennis Mr. Koji Kimura who recently, during my last trip to Japan (in March)  expressed a slight “concern” about the deep down spirit of his young team. He said “ In my time the best Japanese players were seeking challenges outside the courts of Table Tennis in order to boost their own  spirit and the moral of the team – we might  climb a mountain – walk in the snow barefooted or on glowing coal to boost our inner spirt and build the toughness from within Koji said   .

I am guessing that these days neither of the Japanese stars; Jun Mizutani, Seyia Kishikawa or Koki Niwa is dipping their golden feet’s in anything of that nature. The can all play wonderful Table Tennis – but can they eventually stand tall when the heat is on..? That is the question to answer.

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