(Beijing, China) - Ten years after walking away from the sport where she was once ranked #4 in the world, Chen Wang (New York City, N.Y.) returned to her native Beijing with hopes of becoming the first U.S. player to win a medal in table tennis.
"I feel like all of the Chinese are cheering for me because this is my hometown," Wang said.
Wang kept those medal hopes alive on Thursday morning when she upset 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Kyung-Ah Kim (KOR), 4-3 in a 75 minute marathon match to become the first U.S. player to advance to the quarter-finals in Olympic table tennis history.
After splitting the first two matches, 11-9 and 9-11, Wang won in the third (11-8) and led late in the fourth before dropping a game point and ultimately losing the match, 10-12.
Wang lost the fifth game as well, 11-6, and found herself needing a crucial win in the sixth to stay in the match. Wang led early and had the opportunity to finish the game at 10-7, but Kim came back to pull the score to 9-10.
With the second game point on the line, Wang and Kim had one of the longest rallies of the day before the American won, 11-9.
After games that all went down to the wire, a more confident Wang picked up the pace and won the seventh, 11-5.
"In the seventh game, I think she got nervous and I started to play more aggressively," Wang said. "I just kept fighting and told myself to keep trying to smash it."
After winning, Wang fell to the floor in a combination of elation and exhaustion.
"My back hurts all the time and sometimes I want to give up, but I keep playing for the past two years because I want to go to the Olympics," she said.
Wang will play in the quarter-finals tonight at 6 p.m. at Peking University Gymnasium against Jia Wei Li (SIN), a fourth place finisher at the 2004 Games.