USA Table Tennis
- Ruth Aarons
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Since Californians Diana Gee and her twin sister Lisa, encouraged by their parents Yim and Betty, were playing at age nine not just in local tournaments but in both the 1978 Oklahoma City U.S. Open and Las Vegas Closed, you can tell the family was taking tournament table tennis seriously. An Aug., 1979 article on them in the USTTA magazine, Table Tennis Topics, says they have an experienced Burmese coach, and, despite some hard bat introductory play, now use combination bats (pips-out sponge on one side, inverted on the other).
Father/Coach Yim said that he used to play table tennis “at a club until two o’clock in the morning. One night when I returned home rather late, my wife, Betty, said, ‘Hey, Yim, you’d better start spending some time with the girls before they’re all grown up.’ So I said to myself, ‘If I have to spend time with them, I want to enjoy myself too. So I kind of selfishly guided them into the sport.’”
The girls weren’t too enthusiastic at first, especially since their father admittedly was something of a “slave-driver.” In fact, at one point, they said they didn’t want to play any more. That’s when Yim said Greg Sawin came into their lives. He made table tennis fun to play. “In his coaching, he put his psychology degree to work; was keen in spotting a player’s natural talent; used lots of encouraging words in his instructions; and spiced up the training with funny plays and tricky serves to make the girls laugh.” Now, unlike other fourth graders at their San Carlos school, they “practice table tennis diligently three times a week, and do daily exercises, including calisthenics, weight lifting, push-ups, and skip-roping.
“Diana,” says her father, was “a miracle baby,” for the doctor didn’t know Betty was going to have twins. Out came Diana 30 seconds after Lisa, and Yim said he went into shock and for two months half his face was paralyzed. Diana, he said, was born healthy, but she “had a very bad allergy problem in her early childhood years. She was very weak and coughing all the time. Then I got her involved in table tennis training and competition. She became healthier and stronger. As a result, within a year, her allergy problems suddenly cleared up.”
What do the twins enjoy doing at tournaments (besides playing matches of course and talking to their ever-present teddy bears)? Diana says, “Fooling around with other girls and being with Mommy.” Lisa says, “Seeing new things and places.”
Going somewhere away from Northern California is what both girls must do if they want to stay competitively sharp. The mid-Aug., ’79 Summer Open “was the only tournament held by the cash-strapped San Francisco Club in the past 12 months—and this Open only happened thanks to Greg Sawin’s involvement. Here, in the sisters’ match, says Yim, “Lisa’s steady push, chop, and smash were better than Diana’s block and loop. At the end of their play, Diana stomped her foot in protest and complained to her father, whom she liked watching her, that ‘Lisa didn’t loop.’ They were taught to loop recently and supposed to use it in competition. Lisa looked straight into her sister’s eyes and said, ‘I didn’t loop because I wanted to win!’”
Diana wanted to win too, but it took her a little longer. The ’79 U.S. Closed was a bummer for her. She and Lisa lost the Girls U-13 Doubles final to Karin Thompson/Marilyn Johnston, deuce in the fifth. Then when Lisa staged a gutsy -14, -21, 19, 10, 18 comeback to beat her in the final of the U-13 Singles, Diana broke down in tears and collapsed in her mother’s arms.” Yim says he and Betty “recognize the negative effects of competition and give each daughter impartial love under any circumstance.” In general, he says, “the girls are really good to each other and share things together.”
In the Gee garage, where the girls played practice games, Diana was generally the winner. But at the suffocatingly hot 1980 Fort Worth U.S. Open, Lisa (rated 1817) again got the better of Diana (1691), beating her twice. In the U-11 final she won in straight games. But in her U-13’s semi’s, Diana showed she had spunk, forcing Lisa into the fifth after being down 2-1 and at 22-all in the fourth. Together the sisters won both the 13 and 15 Girls Doubles. Despite taking home 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 trophies, the girls came back to San Carlos to lead rather ordinary 11-year-old, upcoming sixth-grade lives. Lisa got a puppy, Diana a litter of kittens, and they had friends at school.
At the ‘80 Vegas National’s, Diana’s fortunes began to change. She got to the Girl’s U-17 final before losing to Cheryl Dadian; won the U-17 Doubles with Lisa; took the Girl’s U-15’s and 13’s from Lisa, both in five, the 15’s from 2-1 down, the 13’s from 2-0 down; and also beat Lisa in U.S. Team Tryout play. Thus Diana (1862) became the #1 U-15 Girl’s player in the U.S.; Lisa (1749) the #2.
However, during the first National Sports Festival at Syracuse, NY in July of ’81, it was Lisa’s matches against Takako Trenholme and Hannah Butler, along with the atrocious umpiring, that surely caught Father/Coach Yim’s attention—so down went his private comments not into a compact little notebook but a big black loose-leaf binder. Lisa, reportedly not wanting to play Women’s Doubles with her sister (been there, done that), paired with Judy Hoarfrost to win the gold over Trenholme/Jaime Medvene.
Immediately following the Sports Festival, the first Junior Olympics was played Aug. 1-2 at Oklahoma City. In the U-13 Girl’s Doubles, the Gee sisters were winners over Kathy and Linda Gates. In the U-13 Girl’s Singles, a double elimination event, both the Gees lost early to Jasmine Wang. Then, however, Diana prevailed over Lisa and so came to play the as yet undefeated Jasmine again. Yim reports:
“So much traveling finally took their toll—Diana showed signs of homesickness, fatigue, and exhaustion. She moved with rubbery legs and her hits were off target. Yet she wanted to win very much. She didn’t win a medal at the Sports Festival and she wanted to bring a gold medal home to her Mommy. At the outset of the match, she realized she couldn’t counter with Jasmine—at least not in this tournament. But what else was there for Diana if she couldn’t attack? Defense? She hadn’t practiced chop in the last two years. Sure enough, Diana’s attack wasn’t working so she tried chopping—and that worked! Jasmine was puzzled by the no spin and backspin balls and the unexpected quick hits. Diana won this do-or-die match, 16 in the 3rd. Now both girls had one loss each, so they played again to see who would be the winner. Diana had gained confidence in her defense and easily won this final match.”
At the 1981 Closed, Diana and Lisa were faced with the fast-improving young 12-year-old, the Vietnam immigrant Tieu Lan Vuong, whom Diana at last year’s Closed had eliminated in the semi’s in three different events. This year, though, in the finals of those same three events, Lan showed she’d made even more progress than the ever-improving Diana. How fast and furious the exchanges and the forehand kills were between these two almost perfectly matched opponents. Lan won the Girl’s U-17 three straight over Diana (who’d come from 2-0 down to oust Ai-ju Wu); lost the U-15’s in straight games; and just eked out the Under 13’s in a fantastic thriller, rallying from two games down and 23-all in the third.
In that pivotal third game, Lan, a compactly built penholder who moves marvelously into a relentless topspin attack, was up 19-17, but then served off. Whereupon Diana, all incense-stick slender, smoked in a serve return, tried unsuccessfully to do it again, then caught Lan where she’s weakest, wide to her forehand. That made it deuce. Then, up match point, Diana got her serve return too high and Vuong with her beautiful forehand cover fearlessly whacked it in. Then, down 22-21, Diana unflinchingly played a blistering exchange—and again it was deuce. Match could have gone either way, but Lan gained forehand control and with it the win.
Thanks go to Dr. C.F. Liu for sponsoring Chinese Coach Ai Li Guo’s visit to the States. Yim and Betty Gee hosted Li Guo at their home, and Li “prepared a training program” for Diana and Lisa. Yim says that immediately after his training, “one of the biggest upsets in local table tennis history” occurred in the California State Championships, held Oct. 3-4 at Berkeley. Twelve-year-old Diana Gee became the State Women’s Champion—her victory, according to co-tournament director Masaaki Tajima, “a tremendous upset,” for she finished ahead of three 2000-rated players, including San Francisco’s Yee Hung Choy whom she beat in five in the final. Lisa did o.k. too—won the 15’s and 13’s over her sister.
At the 1982 National Sports Festival in Indianapolis, Diane may have suffered her most disappointing loss to date. In the Women’s Singles, leading this year’s Eastern Open winner Alice Green 20-15 in the fifth for the bronze medal, she eventually lost this game and match, 26-24.
Diana did not have a very good 1982 National’s. Her problem (and Lisa’s) was Lan Vuong. Diana lost all three ways to her—in the 17 final; the 17 Doubles final (after being up 2-0); and the 15 final. She did, however, win the Women’s U-2000 over Lisa and runner-up Judy Hoarfrost; and Lisa did win the U-1900’s over Norm Schless.
Three months later, though, at the 1983 Colorado Springs Pan Am Trials, 14-year-old Diana, now playing with Tackiness/Feint, came through to finish second behind Insook Bhushan. Shazzi Felstein, writing up the matches, assessed Diana’s play as “A wonderful performance. She has a fine game, a good temperament, and will keep getting better.” The more so, one would think, because Li Guo’s wife, Li Henan Ai, a former member of China’s winning 1965 Corbillon Cup Team, Captain of their winning 1975 Corbillon Cup Team, and one of China’s premier National Coaches, will be based at Colorado Springs where she’ll coach the twins..
Diana and Lisa returned to the U.S. Open—they hadn’t played in ’81 at Princeton or in ’82 in Detroit. And there, ohhh, Diana lost a 19-in-the-5th killer in the 15’s to arch-rival Lan. Otherwise, though, she did fine—won the 17’s over, first Lan, then the Chinese-Taipei star Kin Li-zu (who’d beaten Lisa in five), and with Lisa the 17 and 15 Doubles over Jasmine Wang/Vicky Wong.
Less than two weeks after the Open, at the June 24-July 3 National Sports Festival at Colorado Springs, Diana won a silver as runner-up to her winning West teammate and Women’s Doubles partner Bhushan, and she and Sean O’Neill showed their potential for future success, winning two gutsy matches in the Mixed—over Dean Doyle and Lisa, 19 in the third, then over Perry Schwartzberg and an injured Lan, deuce in the third—before losing in the final to Bhushan/Brian Masters.
At the Pan Am Games, played in Caracas, Aug. 14-29, on her way to being a winning Women’s Team member, Diana, despite pre-match stomach pains, defeated Canadian Women’s Champ Mariann Domonkos, but lost a tense (26, -19, -14) match to Cuban Champ Madeleine Armas (Coach Li wants Diana to start using short pips). Of course Insook and Diana won the Women’s Doubles.
At this year’s ‘83 Closed, it wasn’t Lan who did damage to Diana—Diana prevailed in 5 to win the 17’s. But she was upset in both the 15’s and later in the U.S. Team Trial qualification’s by young Vicky Wong who’d been coached both by her father, Doon, and former Philippine Champ Rey Domingo. However, in addition to winning the 17 and 15 Doubles, Diana won her first big major—the Women’s Doubles—with Insook.
The May Pacific Coast Open saw Diana, having “switched to a fast pimpled backhand and a more forcing style,” play a well-contested though losing (-11, 19, -21, -19) Women’s final to lefty penholder Julie Au, who’ll be this year’s U.S. Champion.
Diana wasn’t part of the U.S. contingent at the ’84 Cuban Invitational, but she sure had to be proud of her sister, for in the Women’s Team final Lisa, though down 20-16 match point to Cuba’s Yolanda Rodriguez in the deciding fifth match, rallied to give the U.S. the gold.
At the ’84 U.S. Closed, as occurred uniformly in other tournaments, because of geographical separation in the draw, Lisa could not play Diana in any semi’s, which didn’t seem fair to her, for knowing Diane’s game best she had perhaps the best chance of beating her. Although Diana lost the 17’s, 24-22 in the fourth to Lan who would be named Women’s Amateur Athlete of the Year, she did, 18, 21, make Women’s Singles Champ Au work to take the Women’s Amateur. And she and Lisa did well in doubles—in addition to the 17’s, they won the Women’s Doubles, and Lisa paired with Quang Do to take the Mixed from Diana and Brian Masters. Lisa, with her two major Doubles wins, would then be on the U.S. Team to the ’85 Gothenburg World’s.
In Late Apr./early May, the Gee sisters, Vicky Wong, and Jasmine Wang, with Sue Butler as Team Leader, played in three Junior tournaments in Sweden. At the May 12th Hallstahammar tournament, where our players were befriended by Stig Eklof, Diana had her best results—a runner-up finish to Lan in the Women’s Elite, a first in Class I and Junior Girls, and an exhilarating 20-16-down, come-from-behind win with Lan in the Doubles over Jasmine and Vicky.
At the ’85 National Sports Festival, the Gees did quite well for themselves. Diana and Lisa were members of the winning Women’s Team. Then Diana, “trying to spin the ball a little more than I usually do,” won the Women’s over Lisa who took the Mixed with Jerry Thrasher.
Come September, Diana, Lisa, Jasmine, and Vicky “will all be living at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as participants in the USTTA’s new nine-month-long Resident Training Program.” The Gee twins’ departure from home prompted an Open Letter from their parents (Spin, Oct., 1985, 17), which I quote here:
“…We are so proud that you are our daughters. We are so proud that you are beautiful girls. We are so proud that you are each loving persons, full of vitality, dreams, and accomplishments. Even though you are teenagers, you are adults in our eyes.
You have accomplished a great deal in the tender years of your life. You have been loving sisters, daughters, and grandchildren, outstanding students, good friends, world travelers, and table tennis champions. Your decision to take part in the RTP indicates that you want more for yourselves, that you have set higher goals to attain. That is great and you have our full support.
Being away from home will help you each to become the kind of person you want to be: an individual who knows and seeks what she wants, a person who can get along with herself and others, an individual who can think independently and take care of herself, a person who values friendship, love, happiness, competition, education, and career.
In the next nine months, you will be pursuing aspects of the goals you have set in your personal development: spiritual/ethical, mental/educational, financial/career, family/home; social/cultural, and health/sport. Please review these goals often and update them if necessary. Don’t be afraid to dream and set higher goals for yourselves. Remember, champions, successful people, are not born that way, they make themselves.
Take pride in your demonstrated accomplishments. Love the people around you, have confidence in yourself. Be cheerful and enthusiastic and you can accomplish greater things in the future. Be humble before God and remember to give thanks for his blessings.
Mom and Dad
Betty and Yim Gee
The RTP training produced quick results for both sisters—as witness the ’85 U.S. Closed. In Women’s Singles, Lisa finished second to Insook; Diana beat Julie Au and Lan Vuong, both 21-19 in the third, to come third. Diana/Insook again won the Women’s Doubles—over Lisa/Julie. Diana lost the Women’s Amateur to Bhushan (some amateur!), but she paired with Sean O’Neill to, 25-23 in the deciding third, eke out a victory in the Mixed over Insook and Danny Seemiller. As a result of this year’s great success, the USOC/USTTA named Diana Sportswoman and Female Amateur Athlete of the Year.
Apparently taking to heart their parents urging they be individuals, the twins, now juniors at the local Palmer High School, gave The Olympian magazine a March, 1986 interview.
“We’re starting to be more independent,” Lisa said. [She’s the one who’s already thinking about college—wants to be a fashion merchandiser.] “My hair’s longer and Diana’s got pierced ears and I don’t. I’m a little taller.”...
“She walks different than me,” said Diana, who was wearing black and pink earrings. “I dance better than her. Also, she talks different than me.”
“Everyone says I’m more mature,” Lisa said. “I talk more.”
But although the girls’ playing styles are different—Diana is an attacker, a hitter; Lisa’s a looper, has a spin game—the results sure have become similar.
At the ’86 U.S. Open, Diana had won not only the 17’s but the 17 Doubles with Lisa over Vicky and Lan, then afterwards at the Houston Sports Festival downed the two of them in Singles in straight games to take the gold.
A big ’86 Closed for Diana. She was runner-up to Insook in the Singles, won the Women’s Doubles with her, and took the Mixed with Sean O’Neill. Lisa wasn’t far behind. She lost in the Women’s semi’s to Insook, and was runner-up in three finals—the Women’s Doubles with Li Ai, the Mixed with Chartchai Teekaveerakit, the U-22’s to Li Ai who’d beaten Diana in the semi’s.
There were no unusual results in the Tryouts for the 1987 World Team: Insook was 7-0, Diana 7-2, Lan 7-2 (with a loss to Diana), Vicky Wong, 7-3, Li Ai, 6-4 (with a win over Diana), and Lisa 5-5—which of course meant that Diana was part of the World Team and Lisa was not.
Following the sisters’ Pan Am play, they were of course eager to attend the ’87 North American Olympic Trials in Ottawa. Diana, though coming off a viral infection, qualified in Doubles with Insook, and defeated Gloria Hsu for the third and final Singles spot, after Gloria had given Lisa a disappointing early 23-21 in the 5th loss. In splitting matches with Canadian Champion Mariann Domonkos, it may be that Diana would do better to risk stepping around her backhand side more, threaten more to take the forehand offensive. In general, says her mixed doubles partner Sean O’Neill, Lisa’s play is more conservative than Diana’s; in crucial situations Diana is more apt to “go for it.” Of course their games are different. As Coach Li says, “Diana is a quick hitter, has a fast backhand, and is a good blocker. Lisa’s a looper.”
Perhaps Diana’s doubles play is better than her singles? She certainly has strong, dependable partners. At the ’87 Closed, she successfully defended her doubles titles—won the Women’s with Insook over Lisa/Lan; won the Mixed with Sean over Insook/Danny Seemiller. But she lost in the semi’s of the Women’s to Lan, and lost to her, too, in the U-22’s, deuce in the deciding 3rd. Lisa didn’t get left out—though she fell to Li Ai in the Singles, and to Lan in the 22’s, she defeated Carol Davidson in the final of the U.S. Woman’s Amateur.
A bit of a trauma now for the sisters. Of course though they’re twins they have separate identities. Diana’s hair is short, Lisa’s shoulder length. Diana likes to go out, Lisa likes to stay put. Lisa thinks she’s easier to talk to than her sister, smiles more, and is calmer, has more patience. It’s likely their separateness will now be more pronounced because for the first time in their lives they’ll be away from one another. Diana’s not ready for college, she’s preparing for the Olympics. But Lisa begins classes Jan. 19 at the University of California in Berkeley. “I want to do something else in my life,” she tells Steve Holland, then Editor of Topics. “But maybe I’ll play in the Collegiate’s.” Meanwhile, here’s part of Steve’s interview (TTT, Jan., 1988, 5) with Diana;
“Following the Olympics, Diana expects to enroll in college. She has been accepted to the University of Southern California but may try Augusta College and the table tennis program there for a year. ‘I could also get a scholarship at Augusta,’ she said. ‘I know I don’t want to go to college in Colorado Springs. I need a change of scenery.’
It’s clear Diana isn’t ready to give up competing in tournaments. As a short-term goal, she wants to beat her friend and doubles partner Insook, whom she’s never even taken a game from. As a long-term one, she says, ‘I would like to keep playing and go to the World Championships. I would like to try for another Olympics, maybe, but that’s a long way away, and I want to get on with school. There are the Collegiate National’s and all.’
After college she might consider ending her active playing days. ‘I can’t make a living playing table tennis,’ she said. ‘I might as well not pursue it.’ She does, though, want to be involved in some way with the sport. “Promoting it, or other sports,’ she said. ‘I like sports marketing in general.’
Apparently she also likes sport journalism. For after getting a grant from the USOC to play, along with Insook, in both the Jan. 28-30, 1988 Irish Milk Open (sponsored of course by a milk company) and the Feb. 4-7 German Open, she did an article for Topics on them.
At the Maysfield Leisure Center in Belfast, Diana and Insook did well in Women’s Doubles. They beat the English pair, but lost in the final to the Japanese team of Mika Hoshino and Kiyomi Ishida. In the Singles, World #21 Hoshino downed Diana, 19 in the 4th, and World #37 Ishida eked out a deuce in the 5th win over Insook.
After a sightseeing day in London, Insook and Diana played in the German Open, held in the Rein Halle at Weisbaden, where throughout the matches a huge number of spectators were “yelling and chanting” for their home country. In the Team’s, before losing to Yugoslavia, the U.S. blanked Italy and Sweden. At the Polish Open (was that on this trip?), Diana had beaten Sweden’s Barbro Wiktorsson, World #46; here in Weisbaden she had good wins over Sweden’s Marie Svensson, World #73, and Germany’s Cornelia Reckziegel.
Olympics time! USTTA National Program Director Bob Tretheway (TTT, Aug., 1988, 12) tells us that, “One of the world’s leaning producers of machinery and chemicals for industry, agriculture and government,” FMC, contributed “$10,000 for team support to Seoul.” And—wowie!—before these ‘88 Olympics there’d be six weeks of warm-ups and exhibitions for our U.S. Team in The People’s Republic of China—again thanks to FMC and its contribution of $25,000. (In China FMC “markets Furaden, a crop protection chemical used to control insects in important agricultural crops such as cotton and rice.”)
In Seoul, U.S. Team Manager Houshang Bozorgzadeh reported that the U.S. Team had “fine practice sessions with the Korean Team, during which NBC, CBS, and ABC interviewed them all and especially Insook, whom they even took to the street where she was born. As expected, the competition was too formidable. But of course Diana and the others had the trip of a lifetime.
Yim Gee said that Greg Sawin was “very proud of Diana making the Olympic Team….He kept every news article and whatever video images he could of her before, during, and after the Olympics.” When Yim and Betty later visited Greg, their daughters were “the pin-up girls on the walls of his apartment. You could see their photos in competition and in different times of their lives all over the place.”
At the ’88 U.S. Closed, Diana again made the U.S. World Team. She beat Lan in the semi’s to get to Insook, her winning Doubles partner against Lan/Li Ai—but again she couldn’t defeat her. Moreover, Insook and Danny Seemiller retaliated for their loss last year and took the Mixed from Diana and Sean. Also, another bummer—in the U-22’s she was beaten, deuce in the 3rd, by Lan.
In ’89, Diana did well at the U.S. Open—had a good win over former South American Champion Elizabeth Popper to reach the quarter’s of the Singles before losing to finalist Geng “Li” Lijuan, the ’87 World Mixed Doubles Champion with Hui Jun. She was also runner-up in the U-22’s to the Open Singles winner Xu Jin, World #55.
At the ’89 U.S. Closed (not played until Jan., 1990), Diana finished 3rd in the Women’s Singles behind Insook and Julie Ou. She again won the Women’s Doubles with Insook over Lisa and Lan whom she’d beaten in the Singles. Lisa and Jimmy Butler were runner-ups in the Mixed to Insook and Brian Masters. Perhaps this is Lisa’s last major?
By 1990 Diana was attending Southern Methodist University intent on becoming “a financially independent business woman,” and was of course the National Collegiate Champion, as she’d be again in 1993 before she graduated.
Diana again made the U.S. World Team at the ’90 U.S. Closed (thanks to a two-games-down win over Lan). And again with her regular partners Insook and Sean she won the Women’s and Mixed Doubles. She also took the 22’s over Li Ai. A bit of a surprise in this tournament: Insook had won every Women’s Championship she’d played in—eight straight—before coming second in this year’s round robin to former Chinese Team member Wei Wang.
At the 1991 Pan Am Games, played in downtown Havana’s 95-degree, non-air-conditioned Vincente Ponte Carasco Sports Center cauldron, the U.S. Women won all the gold—though at the end of the Women’s Singles, Insook, dehydrated, almost collapsed and had to be quickly ministered to by Dr. Michael Scott. Diana loses a gutsy five-gamer to teammate Lily Yip Hugh, another Chinese expatriate. In this match, Diana’s down 2-0, twice loses her ad in the 3rd, and for a moment looks as if her spirit’s going to fail her. She makes as if to throw her racket—and maybe fling away her heart-shaped earrings as well—give it all up in frustration and stomp out, but maintains her control for a 23-21 win Then she takes the 4th from match point down. In the 5th, though…ah, if only she could have gotten to deuce.
That December, in the U.S. Closed, Diana again lost to Insook—the sixth time she’s played her in the late rounds and lost. But she wins her 8th and last Women’s Doubles title with Insook, and her fifth and last Mixed with Sean. Her career may be at an end?
Well, she did say she wanted to play in another Olympics. And though more expatriate Chinese have come to the U.S. to take titles previously won by Diana, she did score a big win in the 1991 U.S. Closed Women’s round robin—over Wei Wang, deuce in the 5th—to finish 4th. That made her eligible for the March, ‘92 North American Olympic Qualifier. This was held, advantageously for the Americans, in the thin air of Colorado Springs. Was it then a foregone conclusion Insook would qualify for one of the two open spots for women in the Singles? But from up 2-1 and 22-all in the 4th she loses to Lily Hugh, and then goes down in straight games to Canada’s #1 Barbara Chen. Diana finishes 4th—but all is not lost; one doubles pair can qualify. And paired with #1 Singles finisher Lily, Diana does.
Diana is still playing very well as may be seen from her strong challenges at the North American Championships, played Apr. 17-19 at St.-Hyacinthe, Canada. Against the #1 Olympic Qualifier, Lily, she loses 19 in the deciding 3rd; and against the #2 Qualifier, Barbara, she loses 19 in the 5th. Insook and Diana seem to have lost their magic, however—they just miss out on qualifying for the World Cup, are beaten by the China-trained pair, Lily and Wei Wang.
Being a member of the U.S. Team at the July 27-Aug. 5, 1992 Barcelona Olympics brings all kinds of photo ops and perks—before and after. “On May 20th, before the Olympics, Diana, Khoa Nguyen, and Wei Wang were guests of honor at a banquet in honor of Asian Pacific Heritage Month hosted by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley at the Biltmore Hotel in L.A. On August 12, after the Olympics, Diana and the Team were guests of President and Mrs. Bush at the White House, along with, among others, Arnold Schwartzenegger.
Diana was proud to be an Olympian and wrote an article for Larry Hodges’ Table Tennis Today magazine (Nov.-Dec., 1994, 32) on what “Olympism” means. She came to better see the “principles” behind the Games when in 1994 she was a member of a four-person U.S. delegation representing the U.S. Olympic Committee at the International Olympic Academy in Olympia, Greece. Experiencing the Olympics enables one to “break down barriers and bring people together from all over the world.” Olympism emphasizes joy found in effort and fair play. It blends sport, culture, and education—and Diana much appreciated the guided tours she was given of such sites as “the Acropolis, the ancient Olympic Stadium and its museum, the Corinth Canal, Temple of Poseidon, the Modern Olympic Stadium and its museum, the ancient theater of Epidavros, and Nafplio Castle.”
It’s 1995 and Diana is still very much a player. She, Lily, and Wei represent the U.S. at the English Open, and Diana’s Women’s Team at the Pan Am Games wins a silver, and Diana herself a bronze for beating teammate Wei Wong.
Diana was really quite prescient when years earlier she’d said that, after her playing days—hopefully at the World’s, the Olympics—were over, she’d still like to be involved in the Sport. In 1997, 20 years after she’d begun playing serious table tennis, she was “table tennis representative to the Athlete Advisory Council of the USOC.” She thus had the opportunity to work with the U.S. Olympic Organizing Committee at the 1997 World University Games in late summer in Sicily, Italy.
However, table tennis wasn’t one of the 10 sports at these Games. So what, based at an athlete village like no other she’d ever seen, more a Club Med-like resort, did she and the others who worked in her Palermo group do? “Took care of the women’s basketball, men’s soccer, and men’s water polo teams—handled their housing, transportation, luggage, bottled water and ice.” But that was only part of her work. “Her role as the AAC representative focused on assisting with administrative matters, attending competitions, getting to know athletes, coaches, and team leaders, and solving code-of-conduct, drug-testing or conflict-of-interest-problems.”
Sounds like quite a lot of responsibility. But, as you’d expect, come the new millennium and her retirement from competitive table tennis, new challenges await—she’ll marry Dan McDonnell and take on the role of wife and mother.