Liu Juan Approaches Final Hurdle to Tokyo Olympic Dream

By Matt Hetherington | Feb. 25, 2020, 12:31 p.m. (ET)

Liu Juan has become a force to be reckoned with in US table tennis since making her return to the table to pursue her Tokyo Olympic Dream. The New York based left handed penholder made an early impression in 2012 when she won the US Open, soon after relocating to the USA where she now has a family and co-owns the New York Indoor Sports Club in College Point, NY. 

Liu became a US citizen and a window of opportunity opened for her to pursue a lifelong dream to compete in the Olympics. It was 2018.

That year she made a strong comeback, claiming the Women's Singles titles at both the US National Championships and the US Open. Liu continued to make a strong impression, winning 3 Westchester Open tournaments last year, the first female player to achieve the feat. She defeated US Open finalist Daniel Gorak of Poland on one occasion, and US Olympian Feng Yijun on another. 

At last year's US Open she reached the semifinal, losing out to her opponent from Japan. 

To this date she is yet to lose to any US women's athlete, making her a big contender for the upcoming US Olympic Trials in just a few days. With world rankings in play she enters as the third seed in the event. 

It has been a long journey for Liu, who helped the US Women's team defeat Canada in August last year to qualify for Tokyo. She has busy days, balancing practice, coaching and family life.

"I usually practice in the morning and give lessons in the afternoon. My parents and husband help me a lot with the family," says Liu, just days out from the Olympic Trials. 

She says that becoming an Olympian is a dream for all athletes, and that when she was finally able to confirm that she would be eligible to continue her dream it was a super happy moment for her.

Liu was a member of the Chinese National Team, competing in the prestigious Super League for almost a decade. Her skills and knowledge are still very evident in her game even all these years later. 

"The high level of competition and training really have helped me a lot in recovering my physical condition and training technique, but the game and the skills have developed since the time when I was in the National Team in China, so I still have to work on many things," Liu admits, indicating the changes to serve rules, ball materials and improvement in technical parts of the game. 

Liu admits that recent play in tournaments, including the US and North American Opens, as well as Westchester and the Joola Teams, did help solidify her training techniques and also build confidence for her. Despite her strong level she remains humble and acknowledges the level of her opposition for the trial and their growing experience. 

"The competition level in the US is very good, those girls improved a lot and they played a lot of international events. For me, I will try my very best to make my dream come true."

We certainly look forward to seeing Liu's high level of competition added to the mix, as the 2020 US Olympic Trials begin in just a couple of days time at Santa Monica College, California!