The third leg of the 2020 USA Hopes Tour returned to a familiar site on the Road to the Olympics. As the Hopes tour focused on the Road to LA 2028, the Houston International Table Tennis Academy played the perfect venue. Just four years ago in the lead-up to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games the club opened its doors for the first time, and hosted the US Olympic Team for their final preparations before departing for Brazil.
Now the esteemed club, along with Wang Hui and his team of coaches, prepared to train and develop a new generation of US Olympians as they pursue their own Olympic dreams.
The camp doubled down on previous events, hosting not one - but two US Olympians in Houston resident and two-time Olympian Jimmy Butler and Rio 2016 Olympian Yijun Feng. The two spoke to 28 eager young minds, doling out inspiration and wisdom in the form of life experience and technical drills, while Butler inspired with a video glancing back on some highlight moments of his career with the US team and at major events.
On the second day of this pivotal developmental program for USA’s youth, the boys and girls participated in more training sessions, honing their skills for the third day when the qualification would transpire. They were in good hands with the knowledgeable coaching staff from the HITTA.
A total of 17 players battled it out for a position in the US National Hopes Weekend Challenge.
Although there were only 4 girls in the event, all of them advancing on to the next stage, the results were not completely status quo. 4th seeded Amery Cui, with a current rating of 0, defeated 2nd and 3rd seeds Zoya Salman and Alina Wang in straight sets, before losing in a 0-3 match to the 1st place finisher Mandy Yu, rated 1765.
There were 13 boys in the qualifying tournament, therefore there was an initial round robin which yielded single elimination results.
Perhaps the boy of the tournament was Aaron Zhang, with a rating of 1397 and fresh off winning the U1900 event against the likes of Ryan Lin and Austin Gao, both rated 1774.
In the Hopes Qualification, Zhang clinched his RR group in straight sets, defeating Lin yet again with a game count of 3-0, before going into to the finals where his winning streak would end. Gao avenged his previous loss against Zhang in a nail-biting five-setter. Lin, Zhang, Gao, and sixth seeded Michael Chang, who was also having an amazing tournament after defeating Lin for a third-place finish, all advanced on to the US National Hopes Week and Challenge.
Congratulations to the qualifiers and kudos to HITTA for being gracious hosts for the Olympic Hopes Program and to Manny Velasquez for being a huge support for the qualification tournament event!