Mercurial table tennis talent Tomokazu Harimoto on the march in Hong Kong
Pint-sized prodigy Tomokazu Harimoto has excelled at Under-15 level and continues to impress
Most 12-year-olds in Japan are entrenched in the world of video games, but for rising star Tomokazu Harimoto table tennis is his passion.
And age appears to be no barrier for the diminutive Tomokazu, who has a natural talent that has surprised players three times his age.
He is also proving to be a formidable force at the Nikon 2015 Hong Kong Junior & Cadet Open at Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Hong Kong.
The 12-year-old comfortably notched two victories on the opening day of the tournament yesterday in the Under-18 category, which is a step up from the Under-15 age group he played in last year.
His performance at the Nittaku Cup in Sweden earlier this year shocked the table tennis world.
The 1.5 metre upstart, who was 11 at the time, came within inches of clinching the title before losing to Xu Hui of the hosts in the final. On his way to the final, Tomokazu had a sparkling run, defeating Egypt's Omar Assar, the reigning African champion, before upsetting Swedish international, Jens Lundqvist.
Despite his lack of experience, he is aiming high.
"I want to participate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in front of a home crowd," said Tomokazu, who beat Wong Chun Cheun of Malaysia in straight sets yesterday as Japan topped group B, replicating their earlier win over Hong Kong B.
"Wong had much more physical strength, but I managed to persevere and I am satisfied with my performance. It is the same problem I face against older competitors, but I cope by basing my game on technique."
Tomokazu was born in Japan to Chinese parents from Sichuan, father Yu Harimoto and mother Zhang Ling, who represented China in the world championships in 1995. They moved to Japan three years later to begin coaching.
Although No 2 in the U-15 world rankings, Tomokazu is undaunted by the expectations. "Of course, I feel pressure before matches, but I think about it less as the match goes on," he said.