WORLD JUNIORS 2012 – Two titles for Japan

The last two matches on court saw Japan sweep both singles titles in this year’s World Junior Championships in Chiba, ensuring they took their first ever junior titles and did […]

The last two matches on court saw Japan sweep both singles titles in this years World Championships in Chiba, ensuring they took their first ever titles and did not go away emptyhanded at their home event.

By Kazuya Kato, Badzine Correspondent live in Chiba.  Photos: Miyuki Komiya for Badzine (live)

Nozomi Okuhara defeated her compatriot Akane Yamaguchi in the girls’ singles final to see Japan claim its first prize in this year’s home World Junior Championships in Chiba.  Okuhara surpassed her opponent in stamina, speed and accuracy throughout the match as she worked her way in after a slower start.

Neither shuttler is so gifted in stature, but Nozomi especially took top honours at this tournament with her strong legs and superior body balance.  While, Yamaguchi played great strokes, Okuhara was able to return these and did not relent, the match finishing with the score 21-12 and 21-9.

In the press conference after the match, Okuhara said of her opponent: “This is the third time I have faced Yamaguchi in an official match.  Keeping clever and keeping to my own playing style in the match resulted in this victory.  Yamaguchi is not so tall and isn’t so threatening; therefore I tried to attack her to push her backward.”

In defeat, Yamaguchi commented, “I couldn’t keep my playing style and made so many errors especially in the longer rallies.  I plan to strengthen my mental toughness to keep my style and then perform better in the next match in Japan in December.”

The boys’ singles between of Japan and Xue Song of China proved to be just as close as their two previous encounters this year, in the mixed team final of both the Asian and World Juniors.

After the first two games went opposite ways, the decider remained very competitive, despite Xue taking a strong early lead, but despite playing catch-up for most of the game, Momota held his nerve, taking four successive points to win the final game and the hardware 21-19.

Momota is the first player from Japan to hold the World Junior Championships boys’ singles, after his compatriot Tago Kenichi fell to Chen Long in the 2007 final.  As for the accolade of being first Japanese player ever to win a World Junior title, Kento was only narrowly beaten to that by his compatriot Okuhara in the preceding match on the same court.

I tried my best and practiced hard to win this game.  However I lost the game and regretted so much,” Xue commented after his defeat.  “I lost previously in the team match, so I would have liked to get the gold medal in boys’ singles, but the wish didn’t come true.

Momota spoke after the match to say, “This is third time I’ve played a match with Song, and the second time this week after the World Junior Mixed Team Championships.  In the last match, Song won the first game, but I won the second and final games all by very close scores.  This win gave me confidence and affirmed that my practice was right.

I thought I could get the first game with cross-court smashes from the forehand side and straight smashes from round the head but Song got accustomed to this tactic in the second, so I changed my strategy and took the final game with a cross smash from round the head.  At the beginning of the final game, when the score was 1-7, I tried to forget everything except for doing my best.  As a result, I calmed down and caught up.  At the latter part of the final game at 17-19, I believed that I could win the game.

I hope this win encourages the people who live in Tomioka-cho and Inawashiro-machi in the Fukushima Prefecture, damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, and hope my colleagues there keep playing badminton.  My next target is not clear, but I’ll keep practicing to aim for a higher level.

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