U.S.'s Zhang, Wang Claim Olympic Table Tennis Berths - NBC Chicago

U.S.'s Zhang, Wang Claim Olympic Table Tennis Berths

Wang and Zhang claimed the last two singles spots in the Olympics with victories Sunday



    Celebrate This Holiday Season in Lively St. Charles
    The United States' Timothy Wang was one of two Americans who qualified for the 2012 Olympics on Sunday.

    Americans Timothy Wang and Lily Zhang made the final day of the North American table tennis qualifier a good one for their country.

    Wang and Zhang claimed the last two singles spots in the Olympics with victories Sunday.

    Wang earned the final men's berth in this summer's games by beating countryman Barney Reed in five games in the semifinals of the third men's tournament. Zhang then beat Canada's Anqi Luo in a five-game women's final for a spot in London.

    "It feels like I've been waiting for this opportunity for so long. It's been my dream ever since I was a little kid," Zhang said. "And now that it's finally here, I just feel like it's still a dream."

    The 15-year-old Zhang joined Ariel Hsing — her teammate and friend from the San Francisco Bay area who earned her spot Friday — as American women qualifying for the Olympics. Zhang said her first competitive match was against Hsing when they were the only two girls entered in the under-10 class of a tournament.

    "So I lost to her, but I got second and I got a trophy, which was pretty nice," Zhang said with a laugh.

    Zhang, who's from Palo Alto, Calif., and San Jose's Hsing both train at the ICC Table Tennis Club in Milpitas.

    "We're a really good team, too, especially since we go to the same club," Zhang said. "The whole U.S. team, we're really good friends, so it's a great friendship thing and we really support each other."

    Olympic berths for three men and two women were on the line during three days this weekend at the community center in this Raleigh suburb. The other women's berth had been claimed by Canada's Zhang Mo, who won last year's Pan-American Games.

    The third men's spot had to go to an American because each national Olympic committee is limited to two players per gender in singles and the first two qualifiers — Andre Ho and Pierre-Luc Hinse — were Canadians.

    Since the other semifinal consisted of two players from Canada, the Wang-Reed semifinal became a play-in match for a spot in London.

    "I'm kind of in shock right now, actually," Wang said. "I couldn't believe it. ... This kind of pressure, this kind of environment, I really feel like I stepped up my level and now I feel like I'm playing really well."

    A match marked by an impressive volley of high-arcing returns from Reed and hard, high-bouncing smashes from Wang ended when Reed's final return failed to strike the table. Wang celebrated his first career win over Reed by calmly hugging his coaches.

    "Today was Tim's day," Reed said.

    Wang, the 2010 U.S. national champion, almost didn't make it to this stage of qualifying.

    He went 3-0 in his final three matches at the U.S. qualifier two months ago — and received some help from the rest of the field — to wind up on the right side of a tiebreaker and claim one of the four berths for Americans.

    Hinse beat Wang Friday in the opening match of the first single-elimination tournament at the North American trials, then topped him again Saturday in the final of the second tournament before the start of the third phase of qualifying — round-robin pool play.

    "I just went outside (after the second loss to Hinse), went to the park across the street, and I just took a walk for a little bit," Wang said. "Just tried to recover, and I just started playing really well."