TOKYO • Japan's Miu Hirano is eager to make the most of her upcoming stint in the China Super League (CSL) in order to prepare herself for greater challenges ahead against the all-conquering Chinese.
The 16-year-old took full advantage of the lack of Chinese competitors to win the table tennis World Cup in Philadelphia on Sunday.
In doing so she became the youngest female champion and first non-Chinese player to win the title.
"I was aiming for a podium finish at first, but I changed my target to winning the title after the two Chinese players (Olympic gold medallist Ding Ning and defending champion Liu Shiwen) pulled out," Hirano told Kyodo news agency.
"It was huge for me to win it when everyone was looking to do so with no Chinese players. I won't be able to win the gold if I can't beat Chinese players so I am looking to get used to the Chinese style of play."
Hirano will feature for Ordos alongside Singapore's No. 1 Feng Tianwei in the new CSL season which starts on Saturday.
China won all four gold medals at the Rio Olympics and Hirano, who watched her Japan team-mates win bronze as a reserve, said she was desperate to nail down a spot for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
"I saw things that are only possible to see from outside, but it was a weird position where I couldn't take part," she said. "Watching my three team-mates made me envious in a way, and it also made me feel I want to be there next time at any cost."