Tao Continues to Push to New Heights

By Matt Hetherington | Aug. 21, 2018, 10:48 p.m. (ET)

Tao Wenzhang set the bar in 2014 when he won the US Open Table Tennis Championships in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At that event he showed the scope of his abilities as he overcame strong international opponents like Thomas Keinath and Jin Ueda. Fast forward four years and Tao has settled in the USA, continuing to contribute back to the game as a coach and training partner, but not losing sight of his goals as a player. 

Now the heights of Tao's coaching career are constantly expanding, but his determination to set a strong example for those who follow his path has led him to new heights as a player too. Now the head coach of his own club, the Swan Warriors Table Tennis Club in California, Tao has been working hard to improve some of the USA's biggest talents.

Aside from his own club, Tao also became a member of the US National Coaching Development Team, where he has worked at National Training Camps alongside other top coaches and alongside USATT High Performance Director Joerg Bitzigeio and the National team coaches. 

Indeed Tao has been making his mark as a mentor and coach, but recently he pushed the ceiling with his own personal results. 

Since the ALN Cup last year, when he narrowly lost to Slovakia's Lubomir Pistej, Tao's USATT rating has been on the up and up. He won the 2017 Hawkeye Open, the 2017 Joola Team Championships, the 2017 California State Open, the ICC Butterfly America Open, the San Diego 10K Open and the 2018 Hawkeye Open. 

Tao has been on a winning streak, which includes two wins over Canada's Eugene Wang. His most recent victory, defending his Hawkeye Open title, saw him defeat former international pro He Zhiwen and US newcomer Akafumi Hamakawa. 

"Being able to get to 2800 is pretty unbelievable to me. I would think it's normal if I just came from China or if I had recently retired from professional training, however I have been in America for 4 years now. Being able to maintain not a single drop in rating points in the past 2 years, moreover getting to 2800, is really something that I feel very proud of. This recent achievement is a personal challenge for myself, I have bigger goals to accomplish in the long term." - Tao Wenzhang, 2014 US Open Champion. 

Tao has entered the upcoming JOOLA LA Open where he tops the seedings on the current entry list ahead of Eugene Wang and 2017 US Open Champion Taimu Arinobu. 

So how does he keep his level up to compete with such high level players with everything on his plate? 

"To be honest, it's quite difficult to pick up on practice while having to manage a club, there just isn't enough time for me to do so. However, I try my best to make time for practice wit my own students sometimes, even though they are rated around 2000-2200. I try to make the best out of practice and to at least maintain my form."

With already many great achievements in his portfolio, what comes next for the former US Open Champ?

"From being the owner and manager of my own club, to being the coach of the USA National team, my goal has always been consistent, that is to assist USA table tennis to grow and improve. I hope to see more young players emerge as they are the future of the sport. I hope that no matter whether in my club or in the national team, I can bring a positive influence to my players, to help them realize their full potential and to learn how to achieve their goals.

As for my personal goals, I wish to be able to play more tournaments, whether it's in the USA or in China, or even international events. I hope to be able to enjoy the feeling of competing as a player as much as I can. I do not have specific goals like playing in top tournaments like the World Championships or Olympics, because to me these tournament feel more like a trip to experience the atmosphere of a special occasion, which is not what I am mainly interested in. Even if it's a small competition, I will always give it my best." 

Tao has garnered a lot of support from students and parents alike and many friends in the US table tennis community. It is not difficult to see why he is so well respected as a coach and competitor, as he continues to set a strong example as one of the country's leading role models. 

So why continue to compete with so much on his plate? It's simple.

"I always tell people that there's no reason for one not to play when one's rating is top in the country or even now, over 2800. Table Tennis has been my passion since I was 7 years old and I still see myself as a player who is improving alongside my students, with the hope that my personal values are reflected by my students."

A big congratulations to Tao on his achievement and we look forward to seeing more great accomplishments from him as both a player and coach!