Jennifer (Yue) Wu had a sizzling spring season.
The 2016 Olympian began by winning her first College National Table Tennis Championship crown for Texas Wesleyan by reversing last year’s final in beating her Olympic teammate Lily Zhang.
A few weeks later Wu was the anchor of a strong United States squad at the World Team Championships in Sweden. With impressive singles victories over Dana Cechova of Czech Republic, Dina Meshref, Georgina Pota of Hungary and Poland’s Natalia Partyka, Wu helped lift the US team to a 13th place showing.
The finish secured automatic qualification into the Championship Division at the 2020 World Team Championships that will be hosted by Busan, Korea.
The result is the third best in the last 61 years for the US Women at a World Team Championships, only preceded by 12th place finishes in both 1989 and more recently, 2008.
So it was not surprising when we caught up with Wu recently, she was in China mixing some training with relaxation and seeing her parents. Wu hails from the Beijing team where some of the strongest female players in China competed, the likes of Ding Ning (Rio Olympic Champion) and Guo Yan (2 time World Cup Champion).
“I’m pretty satisfied with how I have been playing recently. I think because of last year I had gotten so many second places which is really difficult to face for most athletes, it gave me a lot of motivation. l definitely learned a lot from last year,” Wu says.
The hopes of the U.S. team at the World Team Championships came down to a final intense and dramatic match against Poland.
Wu scored a crucial singles victory over Natalia Partyka - a 4 time Paralympic Gold Medalist, also consistently ranked around 50th in the world. Partyka had earlier beaten teammate Lily Zhang. The first three games were intense and all ended 11-9, but Wu held a 2-1 lead and stepped it up a notch in the 4th. Wu took the 4th 11-4.
"I think after the group stages I definitely played better, the first 2 days of the competition I struggled to find my feeling, but after that I managed to produce some results that I'm happy with. This is my first World Team Championships and it felt good to contribute towards the end result for the team. Of course I think even with these strong results I could perform better and I will be working hard for future events,” said Wu right after the final match.
“I’m very happy that I beat couple of good players, I didn’t expect we could finish 13th, but I’m very proud of my teammates and I, this is teamwork."
There are still plenty of months and matches to go in 2018 so Wu is not content to sit back and rest on any laurels.
In July she will be one of the top favorites at the U.S. Nationals in Las Vegas as she attempts to win her first national singles crown. In 2017 she looked dangerous as she manoeuvred for the hat trick, she took gold in both the Mixed and Women's Doubles events before moving into the final of the Women's Singles. Alas, as on a few other big occasions, Lily Zhang would end her run at the final hurdle.
Certainly Wu is in strong form and has been pushing hard to better her results, her goals are always fixed forward and she is constantly pushing herself.
And it is not too early for her to start thinking about the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo she admits.
“I’ve already started working towards Tokyo and the results so far are a good sign that I am moving in the right direction. Hopefully I can continue on this path."