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Table Tennis: Japanese sports stars lead World Team Champs draw

Judo star Mika Suzuki, swimmer Ai Shibata, former Japan football captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto and boxing gold medallist Ryota Murata participated in the draw for this year’s Zeh-Noh World Team Championships. Photos: ITTF.

Judo star Mika Suzuki (from left), swimmer Ai Shibata, former Japan football captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto and boxing gold medallist Ryota Murata participated in the draw for this year’s Zeh-Noh World Team Championships. Photos: ITTF.

March 16, 2014: The Japan men’s team were drawn with European opponents Portugal, France, Greece, Romania and Hungary in Group C of the Zeh-Noh World Team Championships, which will be held in Tokyo from April 28-May 5.

 

Held at the TV Tokyo Studios, the draws for the men’s and women’s tournaments were shown live on TV throughout the country and featured a variety of Japanese sport stars.

 

Former Japan football captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto; Ryota Murata, the 2012 Olympic middleweight boxing champion; Mika Suzuki, the 78kg women’s judo silver medallist at London 2012; and Ai Shibata, the 800-metre freestyle swimming gold medallist in the 2004 Olympics all took turns to draw teams.

 

Yosuke Kurashima, the Japan men’s coach, was optimistic ahead of the championships following the draw against five European sides.

 

“We can now concentrate only on Europe,” Kurashima said. “Portugal will be our toughest opponent, but Romania and Greece will also be tough opponents.”

 

Japan No. 1 Kenta Matsudaira said: “We can’t say that we’re in an easy group because every nation is very strong. Each of them has good quality.”

 

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Korea Republic and DPR Korea were draw in Group D of the men’s event.

Korea Republic and DPR Korea will renew their rivalry after both were drawn in Group D. DPR Korea created history at last year’s World Championships by beating Korea Republic to claim the mixed doubles gold medal.

 

The Japan women’s team, who won silver at the London 2012 Olympic Games, will be confident of progressing to the quarter-finals after receiving a relatively kind draw against Chinese Taipei, Hungary, Belarus, USA and Australia in Group B.

 

World No. 9 Ai Fukuhara will miss the tournament through injury, so No. 10 Kasumi Ishikawa, who only turned 21 last month, will take on a leading role for the second seeds

 

“Now the draw has been completed, I feel excited,” Ishikawa said. “It now feels like the World Championships is close. It won’t be easily to qualify for the next stage of the event, but I believe we can do it.”

 

The World Team Championships are held every two years, with the individual World Championships staged in alternate years. A record total of 120 men’s teams and 100 women’s teams from 125 countries will compete in Tokyo.

 

Each team can enter a maximum of five players and a minimum of three. The teams are split into five different divisions, based on their performance at the 2012 World Team Championships and their current world ranking. The Championship Division is made up of 24 teams, first split into four round-robin groups of six.

 

Source: ITTF

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