Table Tennis Preview

For the second Olympics in a row, the U.S. will send full men’s and women’s table tennis teams to the Games. And they’ll be looking to make some Team USA history in Tokyo by bringing home the country’s first Olympic table tennis medal.

With multiple national team players competing as full-time professionals overseas, there are signs that Olympic history could soon be changing. Both the U.S. men’s and women’s teams reached the quarterfinals of the ITTF World Team Cup in Tokyo in 2019 and have been increasing in team world ranking consistently. As of the June 2021 world rankings, both the men’s and women’s teams ranked in the top 20, and Team USA had individual athletes in the top 30.

Lily Zhang went above and beyond in 2019, being awarded the International Table Tennis Federation Breakthrough Star Award after her sweep of the Pan Am Championships where she won four gold medals, then not long after broke records by placing fourth at the ITTF Women’s World Cup, where she defeated former cup champion Miu Hirano of Japan.

The six-member U.S. team was named following the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Table Tennis in February and March of 2020. Kanak Jha, a 2016 Olympian, is joined by Nikhil Kumar and Xin Zhou on the men’s side, while Huijing Wang and Liu Juan join Zhang on the women’s team. Jha and Zhang qualified via their world ranking while the others won their spots at trials. The international success of these players has raised expectation the U.S. can push for its first-ever Olympic medal in the sport.

Updated on June 21, 2021. For more information, contact the sport press officer here.

• The U.S. has no Olympic table tennis medals, but the Tokyo Olympic team does have two Youth Olympic Games medalists. Kanak Jha represented Team USA at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and won a bronze medal. Lily Zhang won the women's bronze medal at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.

• In a change from previous years, multiple U.S. players now reside, train and compete overseas as full-time professionals. Leading up to his first Olympic Games in 2016, Jha lived and trained in Sweden as a teenager.

• Nikhil Kumar, who turned 18 in January, is the first player born in 2003 to make a U.S. Olympic Team. On the other end of the spectrum, Huijing Wang at 41 will be the second-oldest U.S. table tennis Olympian.

• In 2016, Kanak Jha was the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic Team, the first athlete born in the 2000s to be named to a U.S. Olympic roster and the youngest male table tennis player to compete at the Olympic Games. The 21-year-old is five-time consecutive national champion and currently ranked (as of June 2021) No. 30 in the world. He currently competes in the first division of the Bundesliga in Germany.

• A two-time Olympian (2012 and 2016), Lily Zhang is now the veteran of the women’s side of the U.S. team. Zhang, 25, is a five-time national champion and the No. 30 ranked player in the world as of June 2021. She is currently a full-time professional in the first division of the Bundesliga in Germany.

• Juan Liu, 36, became a citizen of the U.S. in 2016 and has become one of the most dominant players in the nation. 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 has helped the U.S. defeat Canada at a North American qualifier in 2019 to lock down a team quota spot for Tokyo. Liu previously was a member of the Chinese national team and played in the Super League for almost 10 years. She is now a player and coach based in New York.

• July 24, 2021: Olympic competition gets underway with men’s and women’s singles as well as mixed doubles
• July 26, 2021: Mixed doubles bronze- and gold-medal matches
• July 29, 2021: Women’s singles bronze- and gold-medal matches
• July 30, 2021: Men’s singles bronze- and gold-medal matches
• August 1, 2021: Men’s and women’s team competitions begin
• August 5, 2021: Women’s team bronze- and gold-medal matches
• August 6, 2021: Men’s team bronze- and gold-medal matches