China steals the show on epic final day in Bendigo!Photo: ITTF
The 2018 ITTF World Junior Table Tennis Championships very much belonged to China after the nation's players dominated the final day in Bendigo, Australia, from start to finish.
Today's individual prizes (Girls' and Boys' Singles, Girls' and Boys' Doubles, and Mixed Doubles) follow gold medals in Wednesday's Teams events, thus completing a clean sweep of trophies throughout the tournament.
A breath-taking battle between the top two seeds: the Girls' Singles final more than lived up to its billing and undoubtedly provided the day's most enthralling final.
SHI Xunyao (CHN) and QIAN Tianyi (CHN) both came into the contest off the back of convincing semi-final victories, the former beating Yumeno SOMA (JPN) 4-0 and the latter dropping just one game to SU Pei-Ling (TPE). Once pitted against one another in the final, neither player gave an inch in a match that went the full distance.
After surrendering a 1-0 lead to then trail 2-1 and 3-2, it had seemed as though QIAN would be ending the day empty-handed. However, she managed to keep her cool when it mattered most, clinching the final two games to come out ultimately on top after a rollercoaster ride of an encounter: 11-8, 5-11, 9-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-9, 11-8.
If the Girls' Singles contest went right to the wire, the same could not be said for both Boys' finals, as XU Haidong (CHN) saw off Yukiya UDA (JPN) 4-1 to seal glory in the Boys' Singles, having partnered XIANG Peng earlier to the Boys' Doubles title with a straight games victory over Maksim GREBNEV and Lev KATSMAN (RUS).
However, that did not mean there was any less fiery intensity to these matches, with each individual game decided by fine margins:
XU staved off the threat of a potential comeback when UDA took the third game, by battling his way to win 13-11, 11-4, 8-11, 11-9, 11-8.
Meanwhile in the Doubles, XU and XIANG came from behind within the first game to grasp a crucial early foothold in the match. Despite the best efforts of Russia's dynamic duo GREBNEV and KATSMAN, including an audacious, yet perfectly executed 'Behind The Back' shot from the former, China's Boys never looked back and saw out the victory 11-9, 11-8, 11-3.
The star of the show in Wednesday's Junior Girls' Teams triumph, just four days later SHI Xunyao (CHN) took centre-stage once more, appearing in three finals on Sunday.
Her rock-solid partnership with HUANG Fanzhen made gold in the Girls' Doubles all but a formality, as they saw off Miyu NAGASAKI and Satsuki ODO (JPN) 3-1 in the semi-finals, before defeating Miyuu KIHARA and Yumeno SOMA (JPN) in straight games: 11-7, 11-8, 11-6.
Just moments earlier, SHI also tasted success in the Mixed Doubles alongside XU Yingbin, sealing a 3-2 victory in an all-Chinese final against YU Heyi and QIAN Tianyi: 11-8, 3-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-5.
Irvin BERTRAND and Leo DE NODREST (FRA) were impressive in overcoming Yukiya UDA and Shunsuke TOGAMI (JPN) to reach the Boys' Doubles semi-finals, before they were ultimately outfought and thought by GREBNEV and KATSMAN.
Can anyone break up the current dominance of China at next year's ITTF World Junior Table Tennis Championships? The globe's most promising, upcoming talents will all be headed to Bangkok (THA) between 24 November and 1 December, looking to give their budding careers lift-off for potential future greatness.
Next week it will be Table Tennis' established stars to battle it out for the big, end-of-year titles at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals. Make sure you don't miss out on the action, or the 2018 ITTF Star Awards, by following on ITTF.com, tv.ITTF.com and ITTF social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Weibo, Youtube.