Jun Mizutani already has his mind on the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In September the Japanese star was announced, by the Japanese Table Tennis Association, as one of the players to compete in the biggest sport event in the world. Koki Niwa and Maharu Yoshimura are the other players in the Japanese line-up.
Rio 2016 will be the third Olympic Games for Mizutani and also a chance for redemption. The Japanese player made his debut at the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008. Mizutani, 19 years old back then, said goodbye to the singles event after being beaten by Greece’s Kalinikos Kreanga by 1-4 in the round of 32.
Four years later a 23-year-old Jun Mizutani competed at the 2012 Olympic Games held in London. He was the Japanese hope for a medal in the singles event, but Mizutani could not meet expectations and suffered a sweeping defeat against Denmark’s Michael Maze in the round of 32. Mizutani could not have his revenge in the team’s event either. Although he won his two matches, the Japanese team fell against Hong Kong in a close quarterfinal match.
A small crisis
His weak performance in the singles event at London 2012 was the beginning of a small crisis in his career. The press and some fans criticized him and said that his game style was not effective anymore. The Japanese player withdrew from some tournaments and did not attend to the ITTF World Tour. There were rumors that his absence from ITTF tournaments was a way of protesting against ITTF for their unsuccessful control of speed gluing and other illegal substances.
In 2013 Mizutani broke silence and denied these rumors, but he also expressed his discontent about this issue: “There are players who use illegal glue in competitions and this is not fair to others. I always believe that a competition should guarantee fairness.”
About his absence in competitions, Mizutani said: “I was feeling physically and mentally exhausted after the London Olympics so I just wanted to rest for 3 or 4 months. No other reasons. I just wanted some time and relax.”
Months later the Japanese star made his appearance at the 2013 World Table Tennis Championships held in Paris Bercy. The Japanese team, led by Jun Mizutani and Ai Fukuhara, had the mission of stealing a medal from China, but they could not accomplish it. Mizutani suffered an unexpected defeat at hands of Czech Republic’s Pavel Sirucek in the round of 128. Fukuhara also failed in her attempt and fell in the first round too.
The long way back
However, the Japanese player would find the victory route in the next months. He arrived in the Russian club UMM and led his team to the European Champions League’s semifinals beating players such as Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Marcos Freitas.
In 2014 Mizutani showed the world that he was back. He shone in front of his compatriots at the 2014 World Table Tennis Team Championships held in Tokyo. Japan had a hard start in the men’s event, but Mizutani displayed a solid performance and led his team to semifinals against Germany. The Japanese player took revenge against Dimitrij Ovtcharov for his defeat at the 2012 World Team Championships held in Dortmund. In his second match he lost to Timo Boll, but his performance made a good impression.
Inspired and stronger than ever
Doubtless, Mizutani was inspired in Tokyo. Some days before the tournament, he became father for the first time. That was probably his big motivation in the World Team Championships.He maintained his good level until the end of the year, which was mainly due to his mental strength. The Japanese player confessed that one of his weakness was to giving up easily, but now he is more willing to fight back. Jun Mizutani closed 2014 with another victory over Ovtcharov. He showed an amazing performance at the 2014 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals held in Bangkok and defeated the German player in the final.
In 2015 the Japanese player had his revenge at the World Championships held in Suzhou. This time he fulfilled expectations and reached quarterfinals, where he fell against Ma Long, the eventual World Champion. During this year Mizutani has been seen more often at the ITTF World Tour. He recently emerged as champion of the 2015 Austrian Open by beating his eternal rival Dimitrij Ovtcharov in the final.
The Japanese star has grown as a person and a player in the last two years. He has learnt from his mistakes, and has become a stronger and more matured player.
Challenge to Rio 2016
Mizutani already redeemed himself in the 2015 World Championships, but he still had a big challenge ahead in 2016, the Olympic Games. Japan is always a candidate for the Olympic podium, but surprisingly this Table Tennis powerhouse has only won one medal in the history of the sport at the Games: the silver medal won by Ai Fukuhara, Kasumi Ishikawa and Sayaka Hirano in London 2012’s team event.
Therefore, Rio 2016 is a very important event for Mizutani and Co. The men’s team will look for an historic medal, but Mizutani will also look for his own redemption after London 2012.
The countdown has begun and the pressure increase each day. Will Jun Mizutani be able to deal with it? Will Rio 2016 be his chance to write his name in the history of Table Tennis?