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Table tennis prodigy says 'determination' helped him beat Olympic medalist at worlds

Tomokazu Harimoto (Mainichi)

DUSSELDORF, Germany -- Rising 13-year-old star Tomokazu Harimoto attributed his win at the World Table Tennis Championships on June 1 over his idol, Rio Olympic bronze medalist Jun Mizutani, to his determination to win.

"I thought I only had a 5 percent chance of winning, but in my heart, I was 100 percent determined to win," Harimoto reflected.

That determination showed itself in the third game of the match, after Harimoto had won the previous two frames. The game was a fierce back-and-forth of offense and defense from the players as Mizutani tried to shift the contest in his favor and prevent Harimoto from clinching the match. Harimoto called for a timeout and thought about his strategy. The only way for him to beat Mizutani was with his "chiquita," a backhand serve return technique with a strong sidespin. He returned Mizutani's serve with a sharp attack, raising the score to 13-12 and strengthening his resolve to win the match.

Mizutani, who is usually strong in his first encounter with other players, could not change the course of this match all the way to the final game. "The level of each of Harimoto's techniques was high. He was purely strong," Mizutani said. Even with alternating the spin of his serves, Mizutani was unable to make a comeback. "He defeated me, so it means that he can beat anyone. I would like to see him get a medal," commented Mizutani.

Harimoto said after the match that he did not arch his body back and cry out after scoring each point in his usual style because he was scared of Mizutani outscoring him. "I knew I would regret it for the rest of my life if I lost," Harimoto commented.

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