Japan's table tennis world championships medalists Hina Hayata and Tomokazu Harimoto on Wednesday vowed to improve their play ahead of the Paris Olympics to overcome China's domination of the sport.
Hayata secured her first women's singles podium finish Saturday in South Africa, where the 22-year-old claimed the bronze medal after losing 4-1 in the semifinals to world No. 1 and eventual champion Sun Yingsha of China.
"There's a sense of happiness, but it was a tournament where the reality hit me that there are still players above me," Hayata told a press conference. "I still have lots of things to do."
Harimoto, who won the mixed doubles silver with Hayata but lost his singles quarterfinal to China's Liang Jingkun 4-2, said he was also motivated to raise his game.
"I will train more and get my revenge at the Paris Olympics," the 19-year-old said.
China won all five gold medals in Durban, where Japanese players lost 12 of 14 matches against Chinese opponents.
China women's coach Ma Lin, the 2008 Beijing Olympics' men's singles champion, said after the tournament that he is "confident" of his country's success in Paris.
"(Japan is) a strong opponent for China and a big challenge," he said. "(But) we are evolving too."
"Chinese players practice eight to 10 hours a day. It's not just the time being long, the intensity is also high," he said.