Becoming number-one in Japan…at last!

The battle to represent Japan in women’s doubles badminton at Tokyo 2020 is fierce, and it’s going down to the wire. In the thick of the fight is Japan’s number-one — and world number-two (February 2020) — ranked team: Wakana Nagahara and Mayu Matsumoto.

The duo achieved their top ranking at the All Japan Championships, which were held in late 2019. They defeated Rio gold medallists Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo in the semi-finals, and Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota in the finals, claiming their first national championship.

“I’ve been competing in the Championships since I was in high school, and winning here has always been my major goal,” Matsumoto asserts. “Being able to win the Championships this time was a momentous experience for me.” Her partner agrees: “I wanted to become number one in Japan and compete in the Tokyo Games, so my resolve this year was even stronger. Winning the title against all the other teams as they fought to make it to Tokyo has boosted my confidence.”

It is interesting to note that their desire to become Japan’s number-one team was fueled by more than the promise of an Olympic berth. Though the pair won both the 2018 and 2019 BWF World Championships, they were unable to outplay the competition in their home country, and thus did not achieve top ranking in Japan.

“The whole time, I felt frustrated that we weren’t number-one in Japan, despite the fact that we were winning worldwide,” acknowledges Nagahara. “Though our achievements are out of order, we have won in Japan at last, and I can truly claim the title of world champion.”

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