(L-R) Huijing Wang, Juan Liu, Nikhil Kumar and Xin Zhou pose for a photo at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials on March 1, 2020 in Santa Monica, Calif.
Juan Liu was determined to make the U.S. Olympic Team.
Liu, a former member of the Chinese national team who is now a table tennis coach and player based in New York, cruised through the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Table Tennis this weekend at Santa Monica College in California. She didn’t lose a match through two stages of round-robin play, and captured one of the four Olympic Team spots that were at stake.
Joining her on the women’s squad for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are Huijing Wang, who finished second at trials, and Lily Zhang, who locked down her Olympic spot in early February with a No. 28 ITTF world ranking.
Xin Zhou and Nikhil Kumar clinched two spots on the men’s squad Sunday as they also went undefeated through two stages of round-robin play. They’ll join 2016 Olympian Kanak Jha, who is ranked No. 25 in the world.
Liu, who became a citizen of the U.S. in 2016 and is co-owner of the New York Indoor Sports Club in College Point, has become one of the most dominant players in the U.S. She won both the national championship and US Open title in 2018, and reached the US Open semifinals in 2019. She has not lost to a U.S. woman, and she helped the U.S. defeat Canada last year to lock down a team quota spot for Tokyo.
While she was still in China, Liu played in the Super League for almost 10 years. Now, in New York, it’s a balance of table tennis and family. She didn’t even know until last year whether she would be eligible for the Olympics as a U.S. athlete.
“The high level of competition and training really have helped me a lot in recovering my physical condition and training technique, but the game and the skills have developed since the time when I was in the national team in China, so I still have to work on many things,” Liu said.
The selection process for the final four table tennis spots on the U.S. Olympic Team consisted of two stages of round-robin play at Santa Monica College. After the first stage of group play, the field was cut down to eight finalists in both the men’s and women’s tournaments. The two players with the best round-robin records in the second stage earned spots on the Olympic team.
The first two of six total Olympic spots went to Jha and Zhang, who were named to the team in early February based on their world rankings. Both were Olympic teammates in Rio in 2016 and both won bronze medals at the Youth Olympic Games. Zhang is headed for her third Olympic Games while Jha is on his second Olympic team.
The U.S. will be sending full men’s and women’s teams to Tokyo for the second consecutive Olympics.