Japanese table tennis sensation Miu Hirano believes her stint in upcoming China Super League will help her improve her game and achieve glory at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The 16-year-old paddler created history when she became the youngest woman to win the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Women's World Cup in Philadelphia. Miu made light work of second seed Chinese Taipei paddler Cheng I-ching 4-0 in the final to clinch the title.
In the absence of top-ranked Chinese stars Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen, who pulled out of the annual event due to injuries and illness, Singapore's Feng Tianwei, the top seed, looked primed to clinch the title. However, Miu overcame a stiff challenge from the London Olympics singles bronze medallist to beat her 4-1 in the semi-final and seal her berth in the ultimate clash.
Miu will now join the Singapore table tennis star at the Ordos in China Super League, starting Saturday. Her stint in China is part of of the Japan Sports Agency's development program aimed at giving promising young talents international exposure in order to prepare them for the Tokyo Games, according to The Japan Times.
Achieving world cup glory in the maiden appearance is no easy task. However, Miu said the absence of the Chinese players motivated her to finish on the top step of the podium. She also revealed what she would have to do to clinch Olympic glory at home in four year's time: "beat Chinese players".
"I was aiming for a podium finish [at the world cup] at first, but I changed my target to winning the title after the two Chinese players pulled out," Miu said, according to the report.
"I will not be able to win the gold medal [in Tokyo Games] if I cannot beat Chinese players. So I am looking to get used to the Chinese style of play (in order to) to start winning."
Miu also believes beating her compatriot, 15-year-old Mima Ito, who won the team bronze at 2016 Rio Olympics, gave her the motivation to go for the title in Philadelphia. The world cup-winner, who was a reserve at the Games, reveals she had envied her teammates, which also gave her the urge to make the cut to the Tokyo Games.
"My form gets better every time after beating Mima and I think the win gave me the momentum," Miu added.
"I saw things that are only possible to see from outside, but it was a weird position where I couldn't take part [in the Rio Games]. Watching my three teammates made me envious in a way, and it also made me feel I want to be there next time at any cost."