JTTA: Selection System to be Revamped for Paris 2024

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I think she's just being humble, and she's getting really close. She had a couple 2-3 losses against CM too and eventually won at the WTTTC. Sun needs to be careful to avoid that happening at the Olympics. All that 13 wins will be for nothing then.
It's different. CM is on the last leg of her career and washed-up. Even Szocs could beat her twice (despite CM's fans insisting she was playing with injuries).

SYS is not. They are from the same generation. This is more like Ito and SYS. But falling ill after WTTC 2024 tells me Hayata is also about to hit her limit like Ito did in 2019. Having a history of getting injured, she has gotten less injury-prone with the help of 岡雄介/OKA Yusuke?, but her dumbness can't be made up for with hard work.

If Hayata were to beat SYS, it should've happened already in this cycle. It's not realistic to expect SYS to collapse like XX did at Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. It's like Harimoto who said WCQ didn't collapse after dropping the first game at WTTC 2024 like he did at WTTC 2022. The way SYS stepped up at WTTC 2024 under that condition means Hayata is telling the sad truth.

https://tvbanywherena.com/english/videos/391-TheQUEENOfNews/1782665195653340532
一個努力嘅庸才,點都唔會追得上一個努力嘅天才。 (A hardworking dunce will never catch up with a hardworking genius.)
 
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In the same Table Tennis Kingdom issue with Hirano’s interview, the Editor-in-chief also did an in depth one with Ito Mima, a full 7 pages long (pg130-137).
The following are some excerpts.

Q: you’re always cool, unflappble, but there were tears when you didn’t make it after the Trials…
Ito: at the time, not only was I weak at TT, I was also psychologically unwell. Mom said many times “if it’s like that, why not give up TT?”
TT has always been a joy for me, but I was tangled up with grief.
I have always played following my heart, playing care-free makes me happy. Although I know once I grew up other considerations will bring change, but I never thought it would be like this. I became someone even myself can’t predict, I felt no one can understand how I feel.

Q: you have mom…
Ito: I can’t show Mom I am fragile, she always thought I was strong. Even with friends in the TT circle, I can’t show my emotions or weakness. I think it’s the same with others?

Q: you feel lonely?
Ito: I do. I think I am more lonely than others can imagine. This is something I can’t tell anyone and absolutely can’t let other players see.
During the Olympics Hina-chan gave me tremendous support thus allowing me to complete free of care and happy. But once the Trials began, we became spot competitors. I couldn’t possibly tell her then. I knew she was extremely concerned about me, but I hid it.
By January’23, I felt if I don’t change the circumstances, I’ll fall into a depression. By then I have joined Nissay, so I can train there, or invite players from Kwansei Univ over to practice, just to change the environment.
I was constantly with Mom and Matsuzaki, but I felt it didn’t have to be that way everyday. I relied on my therapist who knew how unbalanced I was. I just can’t confide in my parents or my coach.

Q: parting with Matzusaki after the ‘23 Nationals was for this reason (change in circumstances)?
Ito: One of them. I felt mentally fatigued with the constant & serious conflicts. I didn’t want to rely on others, nor let them see my frail mental state. I thought once I’m left alone, away from Matsuzaki, I can effect change myself. After that, my moods did indeed become lighter.

Q: be that as it may, a coach is important, a bench coach?
Ito: Although having a coach at the bench definitely has advantage, I felt playing by myself suits me better. A coach is not everything, or who’s on the bench. Sometimes my coach baffled me. Towards the end, our arguments increased, and I can’t think clearly. I felt confused.

Q: mom was ok?
Ito: now that’s interesting 😋 but I didn’t think about it all during the Trials. Even a training partner would be alright, what was needed was someone who can make me relax, the gentle kind is best. Sitting on the bench, all he need to say is “um…um…”

Q: summer of ‘23, Hayata broke free of the pack, it became a duel between you and Hirano…
Ito: Hina-Chan was always on top during the whole Trials, almost without miss. I felt in Japan, she’ll definitely not loose to anyone. Other than myself, nobody can beat her.
In ‘23-06, I beat her once in T-League, but a few weeks later, I lost to her in a Trials SF. I felt she knew my tactics, and has prepared meticulously. She led far ahead of everyone, so it became a duel between Miu-Chan and myself.

Q: objectively, your previous play style was more creative, but this creativity seemed to have gradually declined over time. Previously in every tournament, you used to deploy a variety of play style, avoiding opponents’ familiarity…
Ito: it did indeed. I felt the scope of my play style had progressively narrowed. I wanted to pursue a TT style that is “unbeatable. I thought, if pips can no longer win as before, what should I do?” I’m still searching for the ‘why’.
The previous balls were easier to smash, has a higher spin, but those properties have subtly changed. Even if I change my playing style, it would only benefit my opponents, as constancy makes me a easier to predict target. Even with my smash and flat hits, they can counter attack.
I sensed my advantage was gradually diminishing. Knowing I can no longer win with the old way, I tried in the later stages of the Trials, to get into rallies. But then after I lost to Yokoi in All-Japan, I have reverted back to flat hits and varied unpredictable style. But whatever I do, it seems to have no effect on my opponents.
Q: relative to Tokyo, I noticed you move your body differently and more now…
Ito: even speaking positively, it’s still crude. The Trials and WTT use different balls now. Adapting to them, and still attacking became difficult. Pips are becoming ineffective, smash-into-nets & missed errors also increased. I don’t think I can go on like that.
It’s no longer the unpredictable, whimsical type of play can win, but the traditional, strong in rallies type that do. Personally I find it boring.

Q: after the Nov Trials, it all came down to All-Japan…
Ito: I knew if I didn’t go 2 rounds deeper than Miu-Chan, it’s game over. But I wasn’t particularly anxious, I just felt that I must give it all. I think Miu-Chan endured even more pressure. It was pointless to worry, I can only do my best.

Q: and then in the National…
Ito: I felt I did ok, having come this far. With my mental state, even a lesser ranking was possible.
Renewing my joy in TT was one of my objectives, this I succeeded. Playing alone with ‘no coach’, going everywhere to practice, tracing with multiple players are a lot of fun. I found that feeling again.
Although I felt it’d be nice if I have actively pursued these from the start, there is still that satisfying feeling of winning (gold) that’s hard to convey to others. Even alone, I feel I’m doing very nicely. After All-Japan, someone consoled “you’ve done your best, thanks for your hard work.” This touched me deeply.

Q: during the press conference you said “…feels like ending it…” but there’s also “I can’t quit now, I still want to try some more…” that’s meaningful, are you retiring?
Ito: Firstly, that was the night that I decided to rest my goals to reaching world rank #1. Feeling released but with a touch of regret (not making Team). My therapist said “go do what you like then.”
What I couldn’t do during the Trials was to enter many international competitions. If I canceled my prearranged WTT tournaments, the penalty is in the millions of ¥s plus lost of ranking. From here on I’ll participate in even more international tournaments. If there is an objective, it is to rise to world rank #1. Going to the World Cup and Inchon was decided that night.

Q: during Busan, you were nicknamed “Coach Ito”…
Ito: to be called that felt odd, even weird 😋. It was because of Wantanaba-sama that I was making comments. What I gave was not coaching suggestions, but my perspective as a player, at the table.
To say I’m “coach Ito” is disrespectful to Wantanaba-sama. Before the tournament, he encouraged me to communicate my thoughts and to offer suggestions. Some coaches might dislike this, but it is because of Coach Wantanabe that the team maintained such harmony.

Q: would you consider Mizutani on the bench ?
Ito: NO WAY!😋 we would quarrel. Jun do occasionally say nice things to me, but that’s only 10% of the time😋. Rest of the time it’s gibberish. He’s a genius in rousing my ire. After nice words he’ll add something stupid, which makes me angry😝. On TV he tries hard but the response is negative. He’s unconvincing…right Jun?🤣

Q: you mentioned goal of becoming WR#1, what comes after?
Ito: Still a blank page. But I want to travel. There were many thing I couldn’t do when I’m competing.
I want to go to Paris, not to compete, just as a tourist😋. I like to seeLondon, Milan, also to Cappadocia (Turkey) to ride hot air halons. No more JNT uniforms, just casual wear 😄. I’m really looking forward to these.
 
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The JNT menu -
Miyazaki is a short-order cook but heading a fine Japanese restaurant.

Watanabe is a family doctor finding himself in the operating/surgery room.

Hayata is stew from a crockpot slow-cooker.

Hirano is stir-fry, somehow stuck into the fridge, just now defrosting.

Ito is beef tataki, with a good dollop of wasabi but no soy sauce.

Matzusaki is a food critic.

Miwa is broil steak with a nice sear, but rare inside.

Nagasaki is fine dinner combo, best served with Kihara.

Yokoi is the maître d’ you have to get past to sample these fine dishes.

Ishikawa is sushi made with non-vinegared non-sticky rice.

Fukahara is Japanese garnish but served at a Chinese restaurant.

Kato is…natto 🤮

I guess we’re sticking with Chinese takeout then..
 
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Now I'm curious about the constant and serious conflicts between Ito and Matsuzaki.

TV Tokyo caught them arguing once after a loss several years back and even got Matsuzaki to admit they were at odds, but they still made amends later on. It must be way worse than that to part ways after so many years of partnership.
 
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Well, Shasha has had not one or two moments when she looked extremely vulnerable against Hayata. So her guard needs to be up.

It's competitive sports, anything can happen, China will definitely not want a repeat of WH - RSM, so Hayata shouldn't be underestimated.
RSM actually beat WH in their first encounter at the 1999年亚洲青少年锦标赛/Asian Junior Championships 1999 (not certain about the English name), which is not counted by the ITTF. Also, Wang Hao was still a rookie at that point. SYS is a World Champ.

If anything, I'm actually overestimating Hayata. Given the way she thrashes her teammates, she should've beaten the core CNT players at least once by now. To this day, she has only beaten LSW, WYD twice and CM.

Hirano has defeated DN, ZYL, CM, WYD twice and SYS.

Ito has defeated DN 4 times, LSW twice, ZYL twice, WYD twice, CXT once, WMY twice, SYS twice (once in WS).
 
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Miwa has chosen Seisa Kokusai High School Yokohama, which is known for distance learning, same as Ojio Haruna, Kihara and Matsushima.

That's an interesting choice. It seems her parents have learned the lesson.

柔道斉藤、体操橋本ら社会人に 卓球の張本美和は高校進学
https://www.47news.jp/10727527.html
TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD - 星槎国際高等学校
https://seisa.ed.jp/schoollife/top-of-the-world/
 
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Now I'm curious about the constant and serious conflicts between Ito and Matsuzaki.

TV Tokyo caught them arguing once after a loss several years back and even got Matsuzaki to admit they were at odds, but they still made amends later on. It must be way worse than that to part ways after so many years of partnership.
In her collection, Tempest actually has a video clip of Matsuzaki quite upset, in tears, sitting outside after a row with Ito a few yrs ago.
 
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I dug up the one by NHK G.

Ito and Matsuzaki were caught on camera arguing after 2-4 He Zhuojia at Australian Open 2018.

NHKスペシャル シリーズ TOKYOアスリート 第1回「卓球 驚異の10代」 (NHK Special Series Tokyo Athlete Ep 1 "Table Tennis: The Amazing Teens")
https://www.bilibili.com/video/BV1mW411z7co?t=2126
 
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Ito needed to do well here to gain as much points as possible for Olympic (Team)consideration. She didn’t.

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edit-removed erroneous info
 
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In her collection, Tempest actually has a video clip of Matsuzaki quite upset, in tears, sitting outside after a row with Ito a few yrs ago.
I remember watching the video too in 2022. This is the video in question:

The incident in question occurred not in the 2015 Korean Open but in the 2016 Slovenia Open where Ito lost to Zeng Jian 2-4. The full video is worth a watch even if you don't understand Japanese because you can still visually see the emotions of everyone involved. It details Coach's Matsuzaki journey with Ito from and early age up until just before the 2016 Rio Olympics and how they interacted with each other. There's Japanese Subtitles, too so those who are patient can transcribe it unto google translate for a better understanding of the special feature.
 
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Thnx apacible…we saw this on Japanese TV, way earlier than 2022, but very gratified that it found it’s way to YouTube, and you found a link to it. Tempest was tracking the validity of JOC Elite Academy, and was using Ito and Hayata as ‘placebo’, (vs Hirano). Btw, there were exposé like this on Hirano & Hayata too, after the success of Fukuhara’s story. But we don’t have links, just screen recordings of the Japanese shows.
We were dismayed that Matsuzaki ‘disappeared’ after the 2023 Nationals, and Ito, already well studied and stagnant, was no longer guided in another Olympic cycle. Ito’s perspective (March2022) of the Trials “why do I still have to do this?” failed to understand in a new cycle everything resets and starts anew from zero. Rebellious in nature we understand, but casting away a 10yr+ close relationship(discourteously) we don’t. In a way, it doesn’t really matter, Ito has the highest achievement already in JTTA, and nothing can ever detract from that. Gold, silver, bronze all in the most considered event is huge, no matter what netizents in gossipy forums say. Just as well, released from committing another grinding period of uncertainty and suffering from anxiety, she can proceed to play care-free TT as much as heart’s content, (although we have doubts about that narrative). If what Li Sun & LGL called “kids ball” is what Ito wants, then ‘happy ping-pong’ is what we’ll see. But the wonder years (of doubles with Hirano, then Hayata, events like 2015’s German Open, and the glorious meets of 2018-19) are behind us. We witnessed a wondrous stretch, don’t get too hung up, time to move on. The nature of sports and their stars are like are waves on a beach 後浪推前浪, isn’t that right?
We wish Ito well, but that young lady’s psyche needs help. Reading between the lines, she’s still on tilt, and her words in the public domain aren’t helping. But that’s story for another time.

(スイートピー…あまり多くを語っていません…ただ真実を話しているだけです…)😋
 
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In a way, it doesn’t really matter, Ito has the highest achievement already in JTTA, and nothing can ever detract from that. Gold, silver, bronze all in the most considered event is huge, no matter what netizents in gossipy forums say.
The fact that Ito had to tell that to the media indicates she doesn't feel she is being treated that way. She is her own worst enemy.

Ito should've also told the media that she has the least wins against the CNT in the Paris 2024 cycle.
 
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