Get to know Table Tennis Olympic champion Lily Zhang

American table tennis player Lily Ann Zhang participated in the London 2012 Summer Olympics. In addition, she participated in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics alongside Jiaqi Zheng and Jennifer Wu.

She has won the women’s singles US national championship six times. The US national championship was won by Zhang in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2022. She won the women’s doubles championship at the Qatar Peace and Sport Cup in 2011 and placed third in both the Pan American Games women’s singles and women’s team competitions.

She is now qualified for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

Lily Zhang is first to make the U.S. Olympic table tennis team, record fourth Games

Lily Zhang has made history by becoming the first table tennis player from the United States to qualify for the Olympic team a record four times.

She will compete in the upcoming Paris Games in 2024. Zhang, aged 27 from California, secured her place by being the highest-ranked American woman in the top 50 of the International Table Tennis Federation rankings, positioned at 35th, three spots above Amy Wang.

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At just 27 years old, the California-born Zhang has achieved a remarkable feat of equaling the record of four Olympic appearances, previously held by David Zhuang and the current USA Table Tennis High-Performance Director and National Team Head Coach, Gao Jun.

Lilly’s Family used to live in a University Campus

Lily Zhang was born on June 16, 1996, in Redwood City, California to parents of Chinese descent. Her family resided on the Stanford University campus. Lily completed her high school education at Palo Alto High School in 2014 and later joined the University of California, Berkeley.

Her father worked as a professor at Stanford University, California, and the family lived on the university campus, where there was a ping pong table in the laundry room.

Lily Zhang with her Family and Friends
Image: Lily Zhang with her Family and Friends (Source: Lily’s X)

Lily started falling in love with ping pong as she used to play the game in the laundry room with her mother whenever they had free time.

How Talented was Lily Zhang in her passion?

Lily’s mother was part of the table tennis team representing her province Xi’an in China. Growing up, Lily enjoyed playing table tennis with her parents.

Lily began professional training in table tennis at the age of 7.

After completing her first year at the University of California, Lily took a gap year off to prepare for the 2016 Olympic Games. During this gap year, she trained and played in a league in Austria, while also training at her home club ICC.

Lily With her Mother Travelling for Olympics 2016 Rio
Image: Lily With her Mother Travelling for the Olympics 2016 Rio (Source: Lily’s Instagram)

In 2009, Lily reached the final of the ITTF Global Junior Circuit tournament in Japan. She also became the champion in the Junior Girls’ Singles event at the Canadian Junior Open and reached the final of the Girls’ Doubles event at the Chile Junior and Cadet Open.

In 2010, Lily secured second place in the Women’s Open Singles at the US National Championship. She also won the Junior and Cadet Girls’ Singles titles at the US National Championship in the same year.

Although too young to participate in the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, Lily became a full-fledged Olympian just two years later at the age of 16, being the youngest table tennis player at the London 2012 Olympics.

Lilly in Competition until 2015

Lily Zhang participated in the 2011 Pan American Games, competing as an individual and as part of the United States team. Along with teammates Ariel Hsing and Erica Wu, they secured a bronze medal in the team event. Zhang also won a bronze medal in the women’s singles competition.

On November 22, 2011, Lily Zhang and Anna Tikhomirova from Russia won the Women’s Doubles title at the Qatar Peace and Sport Cup.

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After qualifying for the last singles position on the 2012 US Olympic Team by defeating Canada’s Anqi Luo in a five-game match at the North American Olympic Trials, Lily Zhang entered the London Olympics as the youngest player in the table tennis competition, seeded 49th behind her teammate Ariel Hsing. In the first round, Zhang lost in straight games to Croatian veteran Cornelia Molnar.

In the team event, the United States faced second-seeded Japan in the opening round. Zhang lost to Sayaka Hirano in straight games and partnered with Erica Wu in the doubles, where they lost to Kasumi Ishikawa and Ai Fukuhara, also in straight games.

How Lily Zhang Bounced back from her looses

On September 2, 2012, Zhang won the women’s singles title at the ITTF North American Championships by defeating fellow 2012 Olympian Erica Wu in straight games. In the previous two editions, 2011 and 2010, she had failed to win the title, losing in the finals to Canada’s Zhang Mo on both occasions.

At the 2012 ITTF World Junior Championships in Hyderabad, India, Lily Zhang reached the quarterfinals in singles and helped the USA team reach the quarterfinals. With 12 wins and 2 losses, Zhang broke into the top 100 of the ITTF women’s world rankings for the first time in her career.

At the 2013 US Open, Zhang won the junior girls’ title. In the women’s singles (part of the ITTF World Tour), she beat Zhang Mo to reach the semifinals, where she lost to world #19 Elizabeta Samara in five games. After this tournament, Zhang’s world ranking improved to a career-high 84th.

In August 2014, Lily Zhang became the first ever US athlete to win a bronze medal at the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics, defeating Miyu Kato of Japan in six games in the bronze medal match.

In 2015, Zhang won the gold medal at the Pan American Games.

Lily Zhang in Competitions recently

At the 2019 ITTF Women’s World Cup, Lily Zhang finished fourth after losing to Feng Tianwei in the match for third place. Zhang’s performance included a notable upset victory over Miu Hirano.

In the 2020 ITTF Women’s World Cup, Zhang continued her success by defeating Feng Tianwei in an upset.

At the Tokyo Olympics 2021, after losing the first game in her opening round of 64 match against Nigeria’s Offiong Edem, Zhang quickly regained her composure and adjusted her game to win 4-1.

In 2023, Lily Zhang won the gold medal at the USA PAN TT Championship.

Zhang also became the champion at the 2023 WTT Manchester event, defeating Chao Daisong in the final.

According to OlyMADMen, Zhang is currently tied with Jun Gao and David Zhuang for the most Olympic appearances by a US table tennis player, with three appearances each.

Impressively, Zhang made her Olympic debut at the young age of 16 at the 2012 London Summer Games. She has continued to represent the US at the Olympics, competing in Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. Her next Olympic appearance will be at the Paris 2024 Games.