No one expected miracles from our Canadian players at the Olympic Games. However, we had some realistic expectations, as well as some “hopes” that our athletes will do well and above expectations.

 

Men’s Singles

This was Jeremy Hazin’s first participation at an Olympic Games. He was ranked 128th out of 128 entries. So, obviously he would be considered the weakest player in this very strong field. But actually, Jeremy is stronger than several players in the competition, but the problem is because of his low seeding he met a top seed in the first round. This is unfortunate but was expected.

Jeremy played well considering that he did not compete at the international level for 16 months prior to the Games. He did go on a USA tour of 4 tournaments in May, but of course that is not the same.

The good news is that Jeremy has many things to improve in his game technically and physically. Why is that good news? Because he already plays at a high level and if he still has a lot of room to improve, then his potential is very high. This Olympic experience can be used as a base for preparation for the next Olympics in 2024 and 2028.

 

Women Singles

In the year preceding the pandemic, Mo’s results were rather disappointing. But Mo came to Toronto for the pre-Olympic training with a positive attitude and trained very hard for singles and mixed doubles. She also showed the same attitude at the special training camp in Portugal.

Mo’s performance in Tokyo far exceeded expectations and she had excellent wins, especially the wins against Petrissa Solja of Germany. Mo went the furthest she ever has at an Olympic Games by reaching the round of 16. This is an exceptional result and so close to a top 8 finish. However, she met the No.1 seed and eventual Gold medallist from China. This was an unfortunate draw for Mo, as she was at the top of her game. She did very well in the round of 16 losing 4-1 in close Games.

Hopefully, Mo can carry this positive result into the World Championships in Houston in November, where she is already qualified amongst the 128 players selected by the ITTF.

 

Mixed Doubles

We had very high hopes for the Mixed Doubles after our pair qualified for the one North American spot available by defeating the USA in March 2020. With the postponement of the Games, and Mo’s professional obligations to her club in Europe, plus the limitations caused by the pandemic, it became doubtful on how well the mixed double pair of Mo and Eugene could prepare for the Olympic Games. The pre-Olympic Training in Toronto followed by a 3-week training camp in Portugal showed that our pair improved and could surprise many teams in Tokyo. The main concern was the draw. Unfortunately, our fears became reality when the Canadians were drawn against the No. 1 in the World (China) in the round of 16.

Mo and Eugene played very well, winning the first game and the miracle started to look more like a reality. They played very well and had a real chance of winning the match. It was a close encounter that ended in favour of the Chinese, the eventual Silver medallists.

Again, this result can only give Mo and Eugene more confidence as they enter the 2021 World Championships in Houston as real contenders. They are already preselected by Ranking by the ITTF and hopefully with good preparations they can do well in Houston.

Coaching and Training

To prepare well for the Olympic Games, under many Covid-19 restrictions and other challenges, Dejan Papic, TTCAN’s High Performance Consultant, arranged for a “bubble” training in Toronto for the Olympic qualifiers. He also recruited Hong TaoChen to act as a sparring partner and coach for the mixed doubles pair during the training and at the Games.

TTCAN thanks Hong Tao for his dedication to this task and alsothanks Hong Tao’s wife who also participated in the training (mixed doubles). In addition, Hong Tao and his wife hosted Mo Zhang in their home during the preparation training in Toronto. We are all grateful to this couple for their kind consideration and hospitality

 

Conclusion

Jeremy has tremendous potential but must work hard at eliminating certain weaknesses and reinforcing all his strong points. He must continue his physical training to make his footwork more dynamic. He definitely has a lot of potential and is just starting a high level journey into the next Olympic Games.

Mo had a surprising high level performance showing that when she is motivated, she can achieve excellent results based on her match experience and good technique. We all hope that she maintains this high motivation into the next international events and next Olympic Games.

Mo has signed a contract with a Croatian club for next season. She will also be welcomed to train with the Croatian national team. This is an excellent platform for her to maintain her top level.

Eugene proved again to be the “brain” of table tennis. He has excellent touch, and a great perspective of the table. His placements and speed variations are second to none. This makes him not only a great player in singles, but definitely an excellent tactician in doubles. Even if eventually due to age Eugene converts to full-time coaching, he would remain a great asset as a player in doubles, both men and mixed doubles.

All in all, a very good performance by the Canadians at the Olympic Games. This should be a motivation to our young athletes to try their best to qualify for future Olympic Games.

 

Adham Sharara

President – TTCAN