The Road to LA 2028 kicked off at the Lily Yip Table Tennis Center in Dunellen, New Jersey as the camp and tournament began for the first USA Hopes Tour event.
24 talented young hopes took part and were joined by a handful of youth practice partners from the club, many of whom had been part of the Hopes Program in previous years.
Proceedings began with a welcome speech from 2-time US Olympian Lily Yip, who reminded the kids of the merits of listening to coaches and always training hard - because you never know what opportunities may present themselves for you in the sport.
The training camp covered themes of building smooth transitions and increasing lateral footwork speed across a number of basic fixed and random drills, there were three sessions - one Friday afternoon and two on Saturday.
Cory Eider and Judy Hugh led the camp proceedings with assistance from Lily Yip and Larry Hodges, the players were in good hands.
As the Saturday camp began the players were given some inspiration from Jayden Zhou, who was the North American Hopes Representative at the World Hopes Week and Challenge in 2017.
Zhou spoke to the players about the value of the experience, going from the regionals, to nationals and then surpassing the continental hurdle. He states that the ITTF Hopes is one of his most valued table tennis experiences, with top coaches like Grand Slam Champion Zhang Yining sharing their knowledge with the Hopes talents from around the world.
Sunday the tournament began, four places per gender on offer for the US Hopes Week and Challenge.
In the boy's event it was all to seeding, although there were some near misses. Deniz Guney held a 2-0 lead over group top seed Dhruv Chopra, but the young gun fought his way back and never gave up on any point. He swung a 3-2 win to clear his group.
Krish Gandhi also managed to dodge a serious challenge from LYTTC's Jacob Lee, who pushed him to 5 also.
Top 2 seeds Stanley Hsu and Mu Du of Maryland Table Tennis Center comfortable passed through their group stages.
Hsu maintained his momentum with a handy 3-0 win over Dhruv Chopra in the semifinals, while Mu Du had to fend off a persistent Krish Gandhi. Gandhi held the important 2-1 lead in the best of 5 match, but Mu Du managed to flip the tables on his opponent and setup a final showdown with his friend and teammate from MDTTC, Stanley Hsu.
While there was a challenge from Mu in the first game, Stanley Hsu was in a class of his own in the final and in the event overall. Eventually he took the final 3-1 and claimed the top spot.
Four places were on offer and the top 4 seeds in the boy's singles took them.
1. Stanley Hsu
2. Mu Du
3. Krish Gandhi
4. Dhruv Chopra
In the girl's singles it was a giant round robin of 5, with 4 taking positions to move on to the US Hopes Week and Challenge. Yishiuan Lin was the dominant player, clearing the field with mostly relative ease.
Fourth seed Amoolya Menon made a bold effort and was able to take a game off Lin, rated almost 500 points higher.
The girls fought hard in their matches and some exceptional rallies were on display, with Jenny Wang cementing her place in 2nd after overcoming her club-mate Dassarma.
In the end, as with the boys, the seedings prevailed and the top 4 players earned their spots.
1. Yishiuan Lin
2. Jenny Wang
3. Aishi Dassarma
4. Amoolya Menon
Congratulations to all the players and well done for a great start to the 2020 Road to LA - USA Hopes Tour!
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