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USATT Looks Back on Memories of 2019

By Matt Hetherington | Dec. 31, 2019, 2:54 p.m. (ET)

We decided to take a moment to look back on some of the special moments from each month across 2019! Enjoy!


Kanak Jha was signed to Division 1 of the German League, having made his way into the top tier of one of the world's most prestigious leagues in his third season. He signed with home club TTS Zugbrucke Grenzau. What a way to start the year!

Players from the US National Team training groups headed to Colorado Springs for a grueling physical training camp in the excellent facilities and high altitude of the Olympic Training Center and surrounding area!


At the Pan American Cup Event, Kanak Jha reached the final, thus qualifying for his 4th consecutive World Cup event and taking away a silver medal.


Santa Monica College hosted the Pan American Games Trial, won by Nikhil Kumar and Lily Zhang, both booking guaranteed spots on the team for the 2019 Pan American Games.


US players head to Budapest, Hungary to compete at the World Championships (Individual). Wu Yue was the last player standing, reaching the last 32 in the Women's Singles event. We witnessed Amy Wang hold an impressive lead over Feng Tianwei in the main arena, Kanak Jha put some pressure on Ma Long, and Victor Liu launch the upsets to reach the main draw. 

The USA and China celebrated Ping Pong Diplomacy at a reception in Budapest, announcing a joint bid for the 2021 and 2022 World Championships - with Houston and Chengdu the potential hosts. There were special messages from legendary NBA player Yao Ming, the ambassador for the Houston Bid, and members of the original Ping Pong Diplomacy team. 

History was made as Houston, USA, won the bid for the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships. With the support of the Houston Sports Authority, USOC, USATT and a great speech by US Olympian Lily Zhang, the US bid was able to win over Morocco at the final hurdle. Chengdu, China also won the bid for 2022.


USA Hopes Tour culminated in the US Hopes Week and Challenge in Sacramento, a great participation rate across the tour with many amazing clubs and coaches alike supporting the program - which showed superb growth in 2019.

USA Table Tennis welcomed its new Chief Executive Officer, Virginia Sung as the appointment was announced by the USATT Board to begin in June 2019. 


The US team successfully defended their gold medal titles in the Boys and Girls team events at the 2019 Pan American Junior Championships. It was a continuation of dominant performances for the US at Junior level in the Pan Am Region.


USATT hosted the 2019 US National Championships in Las Vegas, with some special moments to be had. Kanak Jha broke the all-time record by winning his 4th consecutive US National Championships (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019), while Lily Zhang won her 5th US National title. There were 755 participants across an astounding 105 events.


The US Men's Team win gold at the 2019 Pan Am Games. The gold was the highlight of many other results including 2 silver medals and 3 bronze. You can look back on the results summary here.

Tahl Leibovitz became the first US Table Tennis athlete to qualify for Tokyo 2020 upon winning gold in the Class 9 Singles at the Para Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru.

A very satisfying overall group of results from Team USA at the Para Pan Am Games, taking away silver medals in singles by Ian Seidenfeld, Jenson Van Emburgh and Ahad Sarand, along with team medals in the Class 6-8 by Ian Seidenfeld and Marco Makkar and 9-10 by Tahl Leibovitz and Jerry Vasquez.

The Chinese National Team conducted closed training in Los Angeles at UCLA, with a selected handful of US National Team athletes chosen to join them. This was a real honor for USATT to host and to work on continuing to build strong relationships with the Chinese Team.

A special evening was held at the Nixon Library to commemorate Ping Pong Diplomacy and the historical role that table tennis has had, and continues to have, in promoting good relations between the nations of China and the USA.

Special events were hosted, including the spectacular exhibition team match between the US Men's Team and the Chinese Women's Team. The stands were filled with guests from the USATT membership and the China Consulate in LA as people enjoyed the rare opportunity to see the best players in the world up close and personal!


The Pan American Championships were held in Asuncion, Paraguay. Lily Zhang made history by taking away 4 gold medals, teaming with Amy Wang and Wu Yue to win gold in the team event, pairing with Zhang Kai to claim the Mixed Doubles gold, with Wu Yue for the Women's Doubles gold, and then ultimately clenching the Women's Singles title. 


October kicked off in style with USA defeating Canada in Rockford, IL, to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The women's side of Lily Zhang, Wu Yue and Liu Juan made short work of their Canadian opponents, while the Men's team of Kanak Jha, Nikhil Kumar and Zhou Xin had their challenges against a tough opposition, still able to bring home the result!

The Men's and Women's World Cup events were held, putting USA on the front page. Lily Zhang again made a historical result, placing 4th at the Women's World Cup. As the wild card entry, she fought her way through, upsetting former cup champion Miu Hirano in the round of 16 on her way. Wu Yue landed exceptional group stage results and reached the last 16. At the Men's World Cup, Kanak Jha overcame Egypt's Omar Assar to make the main draw where he narrowly lost out in the 7th to Brazil's Hugo Calderano for a quarterfinal place. 


The Men's and Women's Teams traveled to Tokyo, Japan under the guidance of coach Gao Jun. Both teams succeeded in reaching the Quarterfinal of the ITTF World Team Cup, earning them Operation Gold awards from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. 

The ITTF World Junior Championships were held in Thailand. The US Girls team reached the Quarterfinal, losing out to China. The Boys had some close battles, ultimately losing out 3-2 to Chinese Taipei and Singapore in crucial matches. The star performer was Crystal Wang who reached the quarterfinal of the Junior Girls singles, defeating India and Poland before losing to China.


Lily Zhang became the first ever US athlete to be awarded an ITTF Star Award. She surpassed Chinese Taipei's Lin Yun-Ju and China's Wang Chuqin to win the ITTF Breakout Star Award. Zhang was also nominated for the Star Point award for her stunning rally with Liu Shiwen at the Women's World Cup.

The 2019 Seamaster US Open was held in Fort Worth, Texas. The event represented a phenomenal cooperation between the city of Fort Worth, the many local volunteers from Texas Wesleyan, Raggle Inc, the Fort Worth and Dallas area Table Tennis Clubs and tournament staff. The Open attracted 730 players, competing in 85 different events. Lily Zhang became the first US-born player to win the big title in 47 years!


Overall it was a year of many events for USATT and it's athletes. While we can highlight these milestones and successes, it is important for us to recognize the foundations of all this success. Across the country in training centers, small clubs, town halls, schools and rec centers there are individuals who work tirelessly, often thanklessly and without any tangible reward. To the coaches, club owners and tournament directors across the USA we extend our gratitude to you for all that you do to continue building this sport, inspiring passion and developing love for the game. 

And of course we thank sincerely all of our USATT members for being a part of the US Table Tennis Community. We hope 2020 brings you all many victories on the table and above all the enjoyment of friendships, good health and fun.

Also a big thank you to the USATT Staff who work tirelessly and often beyond the call of duty. To our whole USATT Community, congratulations on a great 2019, bring on 2020!