Chinese boys and girls will be tough to contain in their pursuit of a ‘double' for the fourth time in succession when the Asian junior table tennis championship opens at the Thyagaraj Indoor Stadium here on Wednesday.

The five-day continental championship that brings together potential World champions will see last year's runner-up Japan trying to do one better in both sections.

Indian boys, who stunned Korea last year to make the semifinals, are likely to find it tough to repeat the feat. The girls, ninth in the last edition, can hope to be among the quarterfinalists.

Going by the precedence and potential, it will be futile to look beyond China for the team honours. For the record, Chinese boys have won the title seven times while the girls claimed the title 15 times in 16 attempts since the inception of the competition in 1983. The only aberration was seen in 1987 when Korean girls took the gold at China's expense in Kediri, Indonesia.

The seriousness of China to retain the title can be gauged from the fact that three boys and an equal number of girls have been retained from the teams that swept the gold medals last year.

Among the boys, World No. 2 and World junior runner-up Lin Gouyan, who lost in the semifinals of the junior boys singles last year, and World No. 4 Wu Jiaji, the runner-up of the previous edition, are back to strengthen China's claim. The presence of Yin Hang, ranked 18th in the world, ensures that China's three playing members are all accomplished names.

Invincible

The girls' team, with three players from the World's top-10 rankings, gives China a look of invincibility. World junior champion Zhu Yuling (ranked three), defending champion Gu Yuting (fifth) and last year's semifinalist Zhao Yan (seventh) are all back to ensure China's domination in the competition.

Japan's quest for the gold rests with Maharu Yoshimura and Yuto Muramatsu, ranked 11{+t}{+h} and 12{+t}{+h} among the boys in the world and the duo of Ayuka Tanioka and Miyu Maeda, ranked eighth and 16{+t}{+h} among the girls. Korea's Yang Na Eun, ranked second in the world, will hope to make her presence felt in the girls' singles.

India has retained last year's boys' team comprising G. Sathiyan, Soumyajit Ghosh, Harmeet Desai and Sourav Saha. Seeded third, the Indian squad should be able to once again qualify for the World championship since five spots, one more than last year, are available this time.

In the girls' section, the form of Manika Batra and Mallika Bhandarkar promises an improved performance from the team that finished ninth last year.

Foreign coach

The Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI), still looking for a foreign coach after first-choice Swedish coach Anders Johansson cited family reasons to decline the assignment, is now considering other options.

Johansson himself has recommended compatriot Eric Lindh to the TTFI, which had already shortlisted two other Swedish coaches and one Croatian. “We are losing crucial time and the sooner we finalise a good coach the better it will be for our players training to qualify for next year's London Olympics,” said the TTFI Secretary-General Dhanraj Choudhary here on Tuesday.

He was, however, pleased with the proposed six-month training, beginning from September 1, for the selection of Indian juniors in Sweden by ITTF certified coaches.

Keywords: Table Tennis

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