Monday, August 1, 2016

Olympics: Six Asian/Americans make up the U.S. ping pong team

The youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team is Kanak Jha.
Reprinted from AsAm News

ALL SIX MEMBERS of the U.S. Olympic table tennis team are Asian/Americans.

Five of the members are Chinese/American and an Indian/American rounds out the team. They are Lily Zhang, Timothy Wang, Yue Wu, Jiaqi Zheng, Yijun Feng and Kanak Jha.

Kanak Jha, 16, is the youngest Olympian representing the USA. He will enter his third year of high school in the fall.

“I don’t think that will matter when I get there,” Jha told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Whoever I play against at the Olympics won’t care how old I am.”

Jha makes his home base in the Silicon Valley town of Milpitas at the India Community Center, as do two other Olympians –Jiaqi Zheng and Lily Zhang

“We can compete with the top countries – Japan, China, you know,” said Zhang. “It’s just difficult when we reach like 18,19, when we go to college. It’s not an NCAA sport. There’s no professional league here. So we can’t support ourselves,” she told CCTV,

At the 2012 London Games, Zhang was the youngest Olympian at 16. Now at the ripe old age of 20, she is the lone repeat Olympian in the Team USA Table Tennis contingent, Lily is the face of U.S. women's table tennis. She thinks the sports is improving in the U.S., even if people keeps on asking her about her beer pong ability when they learns that she's table tennis player.

Even with her at the top of the game in the United States, Lily faces some really tough international competition, especially from China. Nevertheless, Lily and her lucky paddle from the London game should be making a deeper run in Rio. 

She is taking a year off from her studies at the University of California, Berkeley to prepare for the Rio games. Unless she gets burned out by the sport, Lily should also be a factor in the 2020 Tokyo games.

Zhang has won a medal at the Youth Olympic games, but no American has ever medaled in ping pong at the Olympics. (Views From the Edge contributed to this report.)