The Race For Tokyo Hots Up As 17 New Names Seal Qualification

Sweden’s Linda Bergstrom defied expectations in Doha (Photo: ITTF)

After a week of thrilling table tennis at the World Singles Qualification and Asian Olympic Qualification tournaments held in Doha, Qatar, 17 victors from the Men’s and Women’s categories – 9 from Europe, 8 from Asia – find themselves qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Out of the nine European champions emerged five women, two of which – Linda Bergström (Sweden) and Yang Xiaoxin (Monaco) – will make their Olympic Games debut, after overcoming Margaryta Pesotska (Ukraine) and Maria Xiao (Spain) respectively.

The remaining three women to appear in the Singles category are Polina Mikhailova (Russia), Suthasini Sawettabut (Thailand) and Britt Eerland (Netherlands).

In the Men’s singles, four unlikely players outperformed their tournament seeding, boasting upsets galore. The most surprising competitor to claim a ticket for the Games was Czech Republic’s Lubomir Jancarik. Seeded at no.30, Jancarik, 33 years old, outperformed expectations in Doha, defeating top seed Liam Pitchford (Great Britain) and no. 12 seed Kou Lei (Ukraine) to book his place at his second Olympic Games.

Following the Czech’s qualification were Bence Majoros (Hungary), Wang Yang (Slovakia) and Kirill Skachkov (Russia) – the former making his Olympic debut.

The 2020 Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament offered an equal number of tickets in the Men’s and Women’s Singles events, with four from each category securing their place at Tokyo 2020.

History was made after Lkhagvasuren Enkhbat and Bolor Erdene Batmunkh became the first ever table tennis players representing Mongolia to qualify for the Games. The former dominated rival Munkhzorig Jargalsaikhan (Mongolia) in the Men’s Singles final without dropping a single game in the best of seven battle. Batmunkh defeated Doljinzuu Batbayar (Mongolia) in an exciting Women’s Singles final, wherein the second game consisted of an incredible 32 contested points. Batmunkh took the game 17:15, going on to win two more games and seal her place at the Games.

Following the Mongolian achievements, Clarence Chew became the first Singapore born participant to qualify for the Men’s Singles event at the Olympics. The fine achievement came after defeating the No.1 seed in the category, Pang Yew En Koen (Singapore), with a convincing 4:0 victory.

Clarence Chew will make history in Tokyo (Photo: ITTF)

Thailand’s Orawan Paranang ensured her spot at the Games by winning her group, defeating Siti Aminah (Indonesia), Jannah Romero (Philippines) and Rose Jean Fadol (Philippines) to qualify from the South East Asia region.

Finding historic success last year in the West Asia section of the event were first time qualified Olympians Ali Alkhadrawi (Saudi Aribia), Hend Zaza (Syria). Alkhadrawi displayed spectacular skill to dismantle Lebanon’s David Cheaib within five games. Zaza became the youngest ever athlete to qualify for an Olympic Games when she defeated Mariana Sahakiann (Lebanon) in four straight games, all at the age of 11.

In addition to Alkhadrawi and Zaza, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Sutirtha Mukherjee will also be making their first appearance in an Olympic Games, after both upsetting top seeds to win this year’s South Asia Men’s and Women’s Singles titles respectively. The two finals were packed with drama; Gnaasekaran defeated top Sharath Kamal Achanta in a pulsating seven game match, while Mukherjee whittled down the strength of Manika Batra to take first place by a slightly more modest six game score-line.

Iran and Kazakhstan triumphed over in the Central Asia section, with Nima Alamian and Anastassiya Lavrova taking the top spots in the Men’s and Women’s categories respectively. Alamian, seeded at No.4 in the event, defeated Zokhid Kenjaev (Uzbekistan), the no.3 seed, in a close six game contest. Lavrova overcame Kenjaev’s compatriot, Markhabo Magdieva, in the Women’s Singles final.

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