Tahl Leibovitz Takes Golden Pan Am Ticket to Tokyo 2020

By Matt Hetherington | Aug. 25, 2019, 12:27 p.m. (ET)


Tahl Leibovitz has ground his way to a Class 9 Men's Singles Pan American Games gold medal in Lima, Peru. The result not only put him on the top of the podium, but also qualifies him for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the first US table tennis player to cement their ticket to Tokyo.

Until the final, Leibovitz had been untouched - claiming his wins all in straight games. The 5-time US Paralympian and 1996 Gold medalist, has already won a singles gold at an incredible 7 Para Pan Am Games events, this marathon final providing him with an 8th title. Overall it is his 14th gold medal at the Para Pan Am Games.

The final face-off against Miguel Vasquez from Mexico was a true embodiment of the player we all know Leibovitz to be. Trailing 2-1 in games, no man would ever consider the match to be over - Leibovitz is a man that literally never gives up.

Vasquez took off to a 3-1 lead as he eyeballed victory on the horizon, but Leibovitz found another gear. While Vaquez held his ground at the table, Leibovitz was further back, chasing down every wide ball and showing absolutely no sign of letting a ball slip past him.

There were tense moments as Vasquez drew the game up at 8-8. Leibovitz called a time-out.

Back to the bench and Coach Mitch Seidenfeld, it was all or nothing for the Queens native. 

In the points that followed, Leibovitz produced some fearless, yet balanced table tennis. Capitalizing off his strong backhand openings, and making defensive plays when necessary. He took away the game and settled in for a final showdown.

A 7-4 lead opened up as momentum lifted him, but the opposition called their time-out to try and slow things down. A 9-6 lead had Leibovitz in good standing, but Vasquez wasn't done by any means.

A big missed opportunity at 9-7 saw Leibovitz throw himself to his knees before collecting himself. 

Despite looking to be in control, Leibovitz let a couple of crucial points slip away, and now Vasquez held Championship Point at 10-9.

A slow curling forehand step around saved the US player in the pressure of the moment. 10-10.

A blistering inside out forehand. 11-10.

A kicking topspin hook serve. Arms in the air. Gold.

Tahl Leibovitz brings his personality to the table, a man who never backs down from a challenge, who fights against all circumstances to find victories, and a deserving winner of another Para Pan Am Games gold.

"I want to thank the USA Team and also my new sponsor Joola USA. I completely depend on the Joola equipment provided to me. I decided to use the same racket Jennifer Wu used to win the 2015 Pan Am Games and it ended up working well. We have a great para team and some amazing up and coming para players. It’s humbling to be part of such an awesome team!" - Tahl Leibovitz after winning the 2019 Para Pan Am Class 9 Singles.

Well done Tahl and congratulations on qualifying for Tokyo2020!