March 31 (Reuters) - While many sports struggle to appeal to a younger generation, table tennis, it seems, is not one of them as Japanese 13-year-olds Miu Hirano and Mima Ito became the youngest ever doubles winners on the ITTF Tour on Sunday.
The duo, who have been training together for almost a decade, beat Polish pair Katarzyna Grzybowska and Natalia Partyka, veterans by comparison at 24, 11-9 11-7 11-7 in the final of the German Open in Magdeburg.
Ito, at 13 years and 160 days, became the ITTF Tour’s youngest winner, eclipsing the mark of China’s Guo Yue, who was 13 years and 224 days when she won the women’s doubles title at the Austrian Open in 2002.
Hirano is the third youngest to win a title, going into the record books with Ito at 13 years and 350 days old.
Ito told the tour’s website (ITTF.com) that they were setting their sights on bigger targets — world championships and Olympic Games.
“We have been training together since we were four-years-old; this is our first title on the world tour, we trained hard so we deserve it,” Ito said.
“We are very happy winning this big title and being the youngest ever players to do so; but we are not satisfied, we want to keep on winning titles.
“Our next goal is to play at a world championships. We want to keep on playing against highly ranked players,” she added.
“Our dream is to play in the Olympics and we want to play in Tokyo in 2020 but Rio 2016 is first, so we will try to get there first.”
Hirano was overjoyed with the prize money.
“We can’t believe that we have won $5,000,” she said. “We are going to buy a treat for ourselves and presents for our parents, friends and coaches.”
While many would have expected the 13-year-olds to be the ones struggling with the pressure of a big final, Partyka said it was the other way around.
“They played really well, they served and received extremely well, which was the key for them and they were just too quick,” she said.
“We were nervous going into the match, so we did not have a good start and we never recovered, they were simply better and deserved the victory.” (Writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Ian Ransom)