The recent addition of mixed doubles table tennis to the programme for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 was celebrated in style in Japan – with a first world title since 1969. The triumphant duo, Kasumi Ishikawa and Maharu Yoshimura, cannot wait to try and replicate their success in three years’ time.
Their timing was impeccable. Just six days before the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved the inclusion of the mixed doubles event for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Japanese pair Kasumi Ishikawa and Maharu Yoshimura were crowned International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) mixed doubles world champions in Dusseldorf, Germany.
The duo secured Japan’s first world championship mixed doubles gold medal in 48 years. The sport is set to be one of the most in-demand events at the Tokyo Games and Ishikawa is determined to be there.
I have so much fun playing mixed doubles, and now I have a chance of winning gold in this cool event in front of my home crowd. It is a dream come true.Kasumi Ishikawa
“I am so happy that mixed doubles will be included in Tokyo 2020,” she said. “I have so much fun playing mixed doubles, and now I have a chance of winning gold in this cool event in front of my home crowd. It is a dream come true.”
Her partner, the 23-year-old Yoshimura, is very aware of the pressure that now sits on his and Ishikawa’s shoulders, as they seek to win Olympic mixed doubles gold on home soil.
“I’m happy that the mixed doubles event is now part of Tokyo 2020. It’s our chance for the gold medal at the Olympic Games and we must work hard towards that,” he said.
“Winning the mixed doubles title at the World Championships has boosted our confidence. Ishikawa and I will most likely continue to partner each other in the event. We have been a strong pair and we have a chance for the gold medal again.”
The two players have a near-psychic relationship on the table. “We’ve played together since we were very little,” Ishikawa said. “That’s why we understand each other. We are very good friends and we speak about personal things to each other. We encourage each other.”
Winning the mixed doubles title at the World Championships has boosted our confidence. Ishikawa and I will most likely continue to partner each other in the event.Maharu Yoshimura
With top pairs like Ishikawa and Yoshimura hitting the ball up to 9,000 revolutions per minute and the equivalent of 150kmph, there is already a strong suspicion that tickets for the table tennis mixed doubles will be like gold dust in three years’ time. With global participation figures up and significant television figures across a number of key markets, the sport appears to be in a good place.
“Table tennis obtained very high television and social media numbers at Rio 2016, so we feel that a fifth gold medal event was deserved,” ITTF President Thomas Weikert said, following the Executive Board’s decision.
“At last week’s World Championships, a sell-out crowd of 8,000 people watched the mixed doubles final, so we know that the public has an appetite for this exciting event, and it will be a huge success at Tokyo 2020.”
Mixed doubles has been a constant fixture in the ITTF World Championships since 1926, and the addition of the event to the Olympic programme means that it joins the men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s team and women’s team contests.
At last week’s World Championships, a sell-out crowd of 8,000 people watched the mixed doubles final, so we know that the public has an appetite for this exciting event, and it will be a huge success at Tokyo 2020.Thomas Weikert ITTF President
“Since table tennis joined the Olympic Games programme in 1988, we tried on two previous occasions to add mixed doubles,” Raul Calin, ITTF Director of Operations and Olympic/Paralympic Games, said. “It has been a long and exciting journey but now, with the inclusion, an even more exciting journey begins.”