Japanese teenager Miu Hirano poses with her trophy after claiming victory at the 2017 Asian Table Tennis Championships on April 15, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]
WUXI, Jiangsu - China's women's table tennis team was left in a spin on the weekend after Japanese teenager Miu Hirano blew the favorites away to claim a sensational victory at the 2017 Asian Table Tennis Championships.
The 17-year-old Hirano stunned China's world No 1 Ding Ning 3-2 in the quarterfinals before accounting for second-ranked Zhu Yuling 3-0 and finally seeing off world No 5 Chen Meng, also 3-0, on Saturday to smash Chinese dominance of the tournament.
She is the first non-Chinese winner of the title since 1996, and only third Japanese victor since the competition began in 1972.
The triumph in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, was all the more remarkable considering Hirano had never before beaten a Chinese player in major international competition nor even managed to claim a single set over Ding.
At least one Chinese, though, was not totally astounded by the triumph - Hirano's coach, Wang Rui.
"We tried to change the style for all the players but she's the one that carried out all our instructions the best," said Wang.
"It's true, though, that the coaching staff were surprised by Hirano's rapid progress in just one year, more or less."
Wang, a former player at provincial level for Hebei, moved to Japan 15 years ago, becoming the head coach of Japan's junior elites' school.
Japanese teenager Miu Hirano celebrates her victory at the 2017 Asian Table Tennis Championships on April 15, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]
Having coached top-ranked Japanese woman Kasumi Ishikawa for six years, he began to work with Hirano and other promising youngsters in October, 2015.
"To tell the truth, we've been learning from the Chinese team, as always, since they are the leading force in the game," said Wang.
"China has sent so many table tennis coaches and professionals to Japan, helping them develop, though it's my own choice to work there.
"I think it's fair to say that a Japanese paddler's success must have something to do with the Chinese," he added.
Hirano, who won the women's World Cup last year in China's absence, agreed that Chinese influence had played a big part in her success, especially the experience of playing in the Chinese Super League last year.
"Table tennis has gone beyond the borders of countries," added Wang.
"Players from different associations help each other to improve, while people and countries communicate through the sport."
Meanwhile, China's head coach Kong Linghui and runner-up Chen could only sing Hirano's praises, admitting their team has some catching up to do.
"She improved a lot in the past a few years. I can clearly see it through her game," said Chen.