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Lily Zhang Makes History As First American To Reach Semifinals At Women’s Table Tennis World Cup

By Karen Price | Oct. 20, 2019, 11:38 a.m. (ET)

Lily Zhang competing during the women's doubles final at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 6, 2019 in Lima, Peru.


Lily Zhang’s run at the 2019 Uncle Pop ITTF Women's World Cup ended in the bronze-medal match, but it was nonetheless a historic and impressive performance by the two-time Olympic table tennis player from Palo Alto, California.

Zhang lost to eventual champion Liu Shiwen of China—who set a record of five career World Cup titles—in the semifinals, 4-0, but it was the first time that a player from the U.S. reached a semifinal at the Women’s World Cup.

Even more impressive? Zhang entered the tournament as a wildcard entry.

Zhang is used to making history: Her 2014 Youth Olympic Games bronze medal marked the first time a U.S. table tennis player had medaled at an Olympic competition.

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The world No. 49 defeated Sofia Polcanova of Austria, to reach the semifinals, 4-3. To get to that point, she put down perhaps her most impressive individual win of her career when she defeated former World Cup champion Miu Hirano, one of the top players in Japan, in the round of 16. Hirano is currently ranked ninth in the world so the victory was a big one for Zhang.

Zhang won the first game, overcame an early hole to start the second game and won that one, too, then fell behind, 3-2. The match went to a seventh game before Zhang, 23, finished off the upset.

After her semifinal loss, Zhang went on to play Feng Tianwei of Singapore for the bronze medal, but it was Tianwei who earned the medal with a 4-1 win.

Earlier this year Zhang won her fifth national championship and then won four gold medals at the Pan American Championship.

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

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