By Karen Price | Oct. 06, 2019, 12:35 a.m. (ET)

Kanak Jha celebrates at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 06, 2019 in Lima, Peru. 

 

With spots at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 at stake, both the U.S. women’s and men’s table tennis teams grabbed the reins at the 2019 ITTF North American Olympic Qualification on Saturday and earned their places on the sport’s biggest stage. 

 

Playing in Rockford, Illinois, both the men and women defeated Canada at the trials to ensure that the U.S. will compete in the team event and field a three-person team in each gender, and that two of the athletes will also compete in singles. 

 

This is just the second time that both the U.S. men's and women's table tennis teams qualified for the Olympics. The first was four years ago when both qualified to compete in Rio. 

 

As is often the case with Olympic quota spots, the athletes competing on Saturday will not necessarily be the athletes that compete in Tokyo. The makeup of the Olympic team will be determined next year as the date draws closer. 

 

Competing for the U.S. women were Yue Wu, Lily Zhang, Juan Liu and Amy Wang, while Kanak Jha, Nikhil Kumar, Yijun Feng and Xin Zhou competed for the men.

 

The women played first and Wu and Liu, partnering for the first time in competition, registered a decisive 3-0 win over their opponents in the opening doubles match. Two-time Olympian Zhang was up next, and she won handily against Benita Zhou in their singles match, 3-0. 

 

Wu then took on Isabelle Xiongin the second singles match and final contest of the day andwith another 3-0 wingot the sweep for the U.S. and helped guarantee that both the team and two singles matches belong to the U.S. at next year’s Olympics.

 

The men were up next, with Kumar andZhou competing in doubles to start the competition. Canada won the first game but the U.S. tied it, won the next gamefor a 2-1 advantageand then finished things off to give the men a 1-0 lead. 

 

Olympian Kanak Jha, the nation’s top men’s player, was up next in singles. He faced Jeremy Hazin and cruised to an 11-5 win in the first game. Hazin tied it in the second and then took a 2-1 lead before Jha tied it back up and won the tiebreaker to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead. That brought up Zhou facing Hongtao Chen, and he took a 2-1 lead before closing things out with the 3-1 win.

 

In Tokyo, the U.S. will be in search of its first Olympic medal in table tennis. Zhang won the first medal at an Olympic competition by a U.S. athlete, a bronze medal at theSummerYouth Olympic Games Nanjing 2014, while Jha matched her performance in Buenos Aires in 2018.

 

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.