On August 16, the Summer Youth Olympics will kick off in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing. And for one young Chinese American woman, it's going to be an extra special event, getting to play in the country of her roots. She's also got a good chance to do very well, being one of America's finest table tennis players.
Northern California-born Lily Zhang is the number one ranked female table tennis player in America. And 51st in the world. She's already competed in the 2012 London Olympics. At 18, she's at the maximum age for a youth Olympian, which is why she has high hopes of medaling.
"My goal, and it would be a dream come true, is to win a medal at the Youth Olympics right now. Just go and play freely, don't worry about winning or losing too much. I just try to have a zero-zero mentality. Feel like every ball is zero zero, I'm not leading I'm not down," Zhang said.
Coach Massimo Costantini, a former Olympian and world class player, says Lily has the "will" of a champion.
"Lily doesn't want to miss a single backhand, a single forehand, so you can see from her attitude, her body language that every time she missed one, she made a mistake, she was so determined in improving that thing," Costantini said.
The India Community Center in Milpitas, California is where Lily has trained for the past five years because of the intense competition. In fact, right next to her in the red is 14-year-old Kris Avvari who is also headed to the Youth Olympic Games. In fact, they are the only 2 players in the entire United States, headed to Nanjing.
Lily's father, Bob Zhang, a former Stanford Math Professor, recalls how they began playing ping pong together on a table at the university laundry room.
"I think after one year, maybe [she was] eight years old, she just beat us. We cannot win her," Bob Zhang said.
That began a journey filled with hours and hours of practice every day and plenty of traveling.
"Every month she has tournament in national tournament. So she has to go out miss one week or two weeks almost every month for 7-8 years. Lily miss so much school but she is very responsible, before she left she tried to finish something in advance, " Lily's mother Linda Liu said.
"My parents have been absolutely incredible toward me. They've never forced me. I played, because I love the sport," Lily said.
This fall, Lily heads to the University of California, Berkeley to study psychology. She still contemplates a possible professional table tennis career that could take her to Europe or Asia.
(CNTV.cn August 13, 2014)