Youth Olympic Games (YOG) stars keep on going and gear up for the upcoming table tennis events. Olympic.org profiles some former YOG athletes taking the court this month.
Egypt’s Dina Meshref qualified for the ITTF Women’s World Cup taking place from 8-10 November in Weihai (China) after winning her seventh successive ITTF Africa Cup title, and will head to there ranked 32nd in the world. The 26-year-old, who competed at the YOG Singapore 2010 before going on to play at the Olympic Games London 2012 and Rio 2016, will be making her eighth World Cup appearance, and has already secured her place at next year’s rearranged Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Before winning singles bronze at the YOG Nanjing 2014, the USA’s Lily Zhang had already competed at the 2011 Pan American Games, where she won two bronze medals, and the Olympic Games London 2012, where she was the youngest player in the event. A semi-finalist at the 2019 ITTF World Cup, Zhang is currently ranked 27th in the world and qualified for the Weihai tournament after finishing as runner-up at the 2020 ITTF Pan-America Cup in Puerto Rico in February.
Britt Eerland was part of the Netherlands team at the YOG Singapore 2010 and since then has established herself on the global table tennis circuit. After finishing as runner-up at the 2020 Europe Top 16 Cup, held in Montreux (Switzerland), in February, the 26-year-old climbed to a career-high of 30th in the world rankings and secured her place in Weihai for the World Cup. Eerland, who also competed at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, upset the form book to beat Romania’s Bernadette Szőcs – the number 3 seed and defending champion – at the Europe Top 16 Cup earlier this year, and will be looking to make a similar impact in China.
Doo Hoi Kem
Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem won singles silver and team bronze at the YOG Nanjing 2014 before going on to compete at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Now ranked 15th in the world, the 23-year-old right-hander has previously enjoyed success at the ITTF World Championships, winning two team bronze medals and two mixed doubles bronze medals, and was also crowned ITTF World Tour Grand Finals champion in the mixed doubles, alongside Wong Chun Ting, in 2018.
Romania’s Bernadette Szőcs made it to the quarter-finals of both the women’s singles and the mixed team event at the YOG Singapore 2010, and since then has enjoyed widespread success at senior level. The 2018 Europe Top 16 Cup winner has also won multiple medals at the European Championships and European Games, and travels to China for the ITTF World Cup ranked 24th in the world.
Since winning two gold medals at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018, China’s Sun Yingsha has developed into a similarly potent player on the global table tennis scene, taking victories at ITTF World Tour events in Australia, Germany and Japan. Currently ranked third in the world, the 19-year-old has also shone in doubles events, partnering Wang Manyu to gold at the 2019 World Championships, and will be one of the favourites to clinch the 2020 World Cup crown.
China’s Fan Zhendong has become one of the best players in the world since winning two gold medals at the YOG Nanjing 2014, and heads to Weihai as the defending World Cup champion. The 23-year-old’s glittering career has seen him win four world titles (three in team events and one in doubles), plus four Team World Cups and three singles World Cups. Currently sitting atop the world rankings, Fan will be eager to cement his position at the pinnacle of the game when the Men’s World Cup gets underway on 13-15 November in Weihai.
Since winning bronze at the YOG Nanjing 2014, Brazil’s Hugo Calderano has risen to sixth in the world table tennis rankings and won four Pan American Games titles, as well as a bronze medal at the 2018 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals. The 24-year-old qualified for this year’s World Cup after winning his third successive ITTF Pan-America Cup title in Puerto Rico in February.
Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto was already a rising table tennis star when he won two silver medals – in singles and the mixed team event – at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018, having become the youngest-ever winner of an ITTF World Tour men's singles title in August 2017, aged just 14 years and 61 days. Since his medal-winning exploits in Buenos Aires, Harimoto has continued to rewrite the record books, becoming the youngest-ever winner of an ITTF World Tour Grand Finals men's singles title in December 2018. He also finished as runner-up at the 2019 ITTF World Cup, and will be looking to go one better in Weihai.
Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-ju partnered compatriot Su Pei-ling to bronze in the mixed team event at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018, and since then has made a seamless transition to the senior stage. Currently ranked seventh in the world, Lin finished third at last year’s World Cup – becoming the youngest-ever player to take home the bronze medal – and also caught the eye by beating the likes of Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Timo Boll en route to winning the T2 Diamond Malaysia tournament and his first ITTF World Tour title at the Czech Open.
The double YOG champion – who won gold in both the singles and mixed team events at Singapore 2010 – is currently ranked 13th in the world, having been as high as fifth in 2017, and will be hoping to recapture his best form in Weihai. The 26-year-old left-hander, who won a silver medal at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 as part of the Japanese men’s team, has been eliminated at the quarter-final stage at each of the last three World Cups.
The USA’s Kanak Jha won bronze in the men’s singles at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018 and went on to win three medals at the Pan American Games in Lima (Peru) last year. Prior to that, he was the youngest American athlete to participate in the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Currently ranked 27th in the world, the 20-year-old qualified for this year’s World Cup after placing third at the 2020 ITTF Pan-America Cup in Puerto Rico in February.
🇺🇸🔥 Can you pick 2 emojis to describe Kanak Jha❓ pic.twitter.com/lGQiIXiBK0— ITTF World (@ittfworld) September 3, 2020
Croatia’s Tomislav Pucar competed at the YOG Nanjing 2014, and since then has won singles bronze at the 2019 European Games, as well as clinching the inaugural European Under-21 Championships title in 2017. The 24-year-old is currently ranked 37th in the world and qualified for the World Cup in Weihai after placing fourth at the 2020 Europe Top 16 Cup, held in Montreux in February.