A home winner, Sweden may have to wait
Carl Ahlander-Johansson came close in 2014, one year later Anton Källberg almost achieved the goal but, in the 14 year history of an ITTF World Junior Circuit being staged in Sweden, no player from the host nation has yet won the Junior Boys’ Singles event.
Now in 2017, as always hosted in Örebrö, the Junior Singles and Junior Girls’ Singles events being staged on Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd February, can that sequence of events come to an end?
Simon Soderlund, Vilmer Georgsson and Martin Friis head the host nation’s challenge but just as for Carl Ahlander-Johansson and Anton Källberg, they face very testing opponents from Japan.
In 2014 the gold medal belonged to Tonin Ryuzaki, in 2015 Yuki Matsuyama stood proudly on the top step of the podium.
Now in 2017, Shunsuke Togame, Aoto Aszazu and Takeru Kashiwa lead the challenge from the Land of the Rising Sun.
Aoto Aszazu and Takeru Kashiwa, in particular, are no strangers to international play. On the 2016 ITTF World Junior Circuit each made no less than ten appearances. The best for Aoto Asazu, who finished the year in a highly creditable seventh place on the Boys’ Standings, was the runners up spot in the Slovak Republic and in Slovenia, for Takeru Kashiwa his best quarter-final finish in the same countries.
Meanwhile, Shunsuke Togami was less active; he competed on four occasions on the 2016 ITTF World Junior Circuit, his most successful a last eight finish in the Slovak Republic, Chinese Taipei and Hungary.
All three have yet to make the next step, Örebrö could provide the perfect opportunity but just as the host nation’s players will have to excel to claim Junior Boys’ Singles podium finish, it is exactly the same for the Japanese entry.
Not one Japanese name is listed amongst the top eight; the highest is Shunsuke Togami; presently listed at no.39 on the Under 18 Boys’ World Rankings, he is the ninth name in the order of merit.
Kanak Jha of the United States is the top seed, based in Halmstad he is very much at home in Sweden; next in line is Russia’s Vladimir Sidorenko, followed by Belgium’s Florian Cnudde and Germany’s Tobias Hippler.
Russia’s Denis Ivonin and Artur Abusev are the next names in the order of merit; Jules Rolland of France and England’s Tom Jarvis, also stationed in Halmstad, complete the top eight.
All are medal contenders but could the eventual Junior Boys’ Singles winner come from none of them?
Note the names further down the order of Azerbaijan’s Yang Xinyu and Chen Xingtai; at beginning of the month, they contested the Junior Boys’ Singles final in the Czech Republic, the former beat the latter to secure the title.
Could there be a repeat in Örebrö; is that more like than a home winner?
Oh if only there had been an ITTF World Junior Circuit 40 years ago; would two aspiring young men named Jan-Ove Waldner and Jörgen Persson made a difference?