Two girls enter the ping-pong arena, the tension is palpable…
Japanese teen table-tennis talent Ai Fukuhara isn’t happy that she has a new rival: 14 year old Kasumi Ishikawa.
For many a year now (ever since as a paddle-wielding seven year old she featured in a commercial), Ai-chan’s been the darling of the table-tennis set. But now the 18 year old Ai (pictured above in pink) has serious competition in the form of Ishikawa (above in blue) – who in making the National team, became the youngest ever member.
During the National team camp, Fukuhara headed off to a practice session, only to be confronted by a horde of over 70 media & Ishikawa, awaiting her to play a practice match (set up by the coaching staff).
It was all too much for Ai, who hadn’t been told that the match was going to occur. She fled to a toilet, and hid – delaying the start of the much-anticipated match. Eventually, she did come out, and even though Ai-chan lost the first set of the match, she did go on to take the last two sets.
An insider said that the match was a matter of pride for Fukuhara – who detests losing, especially to younger opponents. The source stated that when Ai-chan loses, she often locks herself away in her changing room, and cries uncontrollably.
Fukuhara has done very well internationally (currently ranked #14), but has struggled domestically. The national women’s coach hopes that a budding rivalry with another wunderkind will help lift her game.