The US Women's Table Tennis Team have stormed their way through Team Canada to assert themselves as the champions of the 2019 ITTF North American Olympic Qualification.
In front of an enthusiastic home crowd at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford, Illinois, the US Women kicked off their campaign for Tokyo 2020 qualification.
The trio of Lily Zhang, Wu Yue and Liu Juan were on duty for the US, with Amy Wang and Coach Gao Jun on the bench in support.
For the Canadians, unfortunate circumstances struck as lead player Mo Zhang withdrew due to a shoulder injury. The situation left the three 16 year old Canadian representatives of Sophie Gauthier, Benita Zhou and Isabelle Xiong to take center stage.
With team and singles qualification on the line, there reward and pressure were equally high, and the USA wasted no time in getting their foot in the door.
Wu and Liu combined for the first time in competition to launch a convincing 3-0 win over Gauthier and Xiong in the opening doubles match of the best of 5 Olympic Format team tie.
Experience showed as the US players took the upper hand over their Canadian opponents, and showed no sign of diverting from their course. Quality was high on the US side, while the rising stars of Canadian Table Tennis fought to keep up.
Two-time US Olympian Lily Zhang was next to take center court, vying for her spot at a third Olympic Games. She was unrelenting in her 3-0 dismantling of Benita Zhou.
While Zhou was able to keep up in the initial phases of the first point, she allowed Zhang too many opening opportunities and wasn't able to execute counter-initiatives, leaving Zhang to win most of the points in open rally.
With a 2-0 lead in hand it was Wu Yue, currently ranked 37 in the world, who took on Isabelle Xiong.
Wu was fully aware of the opportunity to close out the team tie, and brought intensity to the match from the first ball. The first game was a one-sided affair with Wu claiming it 11-1.
Xiong clung to the match and gathered her confidence to produce some exciting rallies, but by the end of the match it was Wu Yue who had dominated proceedings.
A third 3-0 win in the bag for the USA and they were victorious. The win over Canada here in Rockford qualifies the team for Tokyo 2020 Olympics, also awarding two singles berths to the US Women for next year's big event.
Lily Zhang was thrilled at the outcome of the match, presenting a doorway for her to potentially compete at a third Olympic Games.
“We came in with a lot of confidence in our team and our preparations to bring our best to the table here in Rockford, and its been an honor for us to deliver this result in front of home supporters. I'm looking forward to working towards the next step now with this opportunity to compete in another Olympic Games,” said Zhang after the match.
Congratulations to Team USA on a super win and to Canada's young team on making a bold effort. The Canadian team take away the remaining singles qualification spot to Tokyo.
Liu Juan/Wu Yue (USA) (3-0) 11-5, 11-5, 11-5 Sophie Gauthier/Isabelle Xiong (CAN)
Lily Zhang (USA) (3-0) 11-2, 11-6, 11-4 Benita Zhou (CAN)
Wu Yue (USA) (3-0) 11-1, 11-6, 11-4 Isabelle Xiong (CAN)
The Men's Qualification match will take place tonight at 7pm Central Time, you will be able to watch LIVE here:
- 2019 ITTF North American Olympic Qualification Livestream and Schedule