USA Table Tennis are sad to announce the passing of former US National Women's Team Coach, Zhang Li. Zhang served as national coach between 1991 and 1996 after an impressive career as a player and then National Women's Team Coach in China.
With a decorated record of World Championship medals, including being a member of the World Champion Chinese team in 1975, 77 and 79, she also collected the World Championship doubles title in '79 and was a silver medalist in singles twice. Zhang is a 7 times Asian Games Champion, a current record.
Aside from her many golds, she also won two silver medals at the World Championships in singles, losing on both occasions to North Korea - in these times diplomacy with the North Koreans was the focus, though bittersweet for Zhang who could have added the two major titles to her already outstanding career accomplishments.
Zhang was a member of the successful World Champions Table Tennis Academy in California, a club well known for developing many top players, including current Men's National Champion Kanak Jha. The club and her family have described her as 'extremely humble, thoughtful, caring, selfless, and had the kindest heart. Her strength was unparalleled."
The four time World Champion passed away on February 13th after over three years battling with stage 4 lung cancer. Zhang was not a smoker and lived a healthy life, though unfortunately a genetic mutation in her body caused the illness.
Zhang leaves behind her family at the WCTTA, husband Li Zhen Shi, daughter Nan Li, son-in-law Stefan Feth and 14 month old grandson Mika Feth - Li Yu Ming).
Among the many to pay tribute to her is current US National Team Coach Gao Jun who made a nice tribute to her former supervising coach on Wechat, commenting that many of the skills and tactics that she used benefited from Zhang's teaching and that many of her teachings were still so clear in her mind as if it were yesterday.
Our thoughts are with the family, friends and students of Zhang Li at this time. The WCTTA club and her family have encouraged people to make donations to lung cancer research in memory of Zhang to help fight this horrible disease. You can find the link to do so here.
Rest in Peace.