When teammates Timothy Wang and Kanak Jha met in the final match of the North American Olympic Qualification Tournament Sunday evening in Markham, Ontario, Sunday evening, both knew they had earned their opportunity to represent the United States in men’s table tennis at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. What was on the line was how much they would get to compete in Brazil.
The winner of the match would earn designation as the second men’s singles player, joining Yijun Feng, while the other would be the third member of the U.S. entry in the team competition in Rio.
Born June 19, 2000, Jha has become the first U.S. Olympian born in the 2000s, but the 15-year-old did not show any youthful jitters against the 24-year-old Wang. He already had survived a stiff semifinal challenge from Canada’s Pierre-Luc Theriault, who extended the young American to seven games before falling.
Jha carried the momentum from that match into the final, taking the first game 11-5. It was lights out from there, as Jha used his big forehand to control the match and close it out in four games (11-5, 11-6, 11-7, 11-9). Jha has been a member of the U.S. worlds team since 2014, when he became the youngest participant in the history of the world championships.
A three-time U.S. national champion in singles, Wang also has won two national titles in men’s doubles and three in mixed doubles. A 2012 Olympian, Wang was eliminated in singles preliminaries. He will play in the team event only in Rio.