BUILDING TEAM USA: Jennifer Wu Becomes First to Qualify for Rio
Yue “Jennifer” Wu won the singles event at the 2015 Pan Am games becoming the first table tennis player to qualify for Team USA for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Wu’s tournament was almost flawless. In the team event, she won all of her matches in helping TeamUSA achieve gold. Then in singles, she defeated Uruguay’s Lorenzotti 4-1, bested Puerto Rican phenom Diaz 4-1, and swept Brazil’s No. 2 player Kumahara 4-0 on her way to the Final where she faced Brazil’s top Player Lin Gui.
In the team event, USA defeated Brazil in the Final. Brazil was the top seed in the tournament, but the seedings may not have matched the players exactly as two tough members of Team USA are new to the ITTF international rankings. In that Final, Brazil’s top player, Gui Lin, fell to Jiaqi Zheng in their match. The result was the same for the remaining matches as Team USA swept the final singles match and the doubles match to secure a 3-0 win.
Brazil’s Gui Lin found her stride in the singles competition, besting two-thirds of TeamUSA – defeating Jiaqi Zheng 4-2 in the early rounds and then defeating Lily Zhang in the semifinal 4-3.
In the Final, Jennifer Wu jumped out to an early lead, taking the first two games 11-8. Gui then fought back with three straight wins – including an emotional 12-10 win to regain the lead. Wu evened up the match with an 11-9 win in the sixth setting up an epic close to the event in a deciding game seven.
The seventh game was initially dominated by Gui – switching ends with a 5 to 1 advantage. But Wu found another gear and played error free for the remainder of the game, winning 10 of the next 12 points to close out the game 11-7. A 4-3 victory for Wu and TeamUSA…. and a thrilling way to punch her ticket to Rio.
Ian Marshall of the ITTF interviewed Jennifer after the match:
“After winning the second game I started to think too much about winning the gold medal; that’s why I lost the next three”, said Wu Yue. “It was important that I really concentrated better.”
“At the change of ends in the seventh game when I was losing 5-1, I didn’t really change anything: I just tried to play my game, try to be the first to attack and eventually I won”, added Wu Yue. “Now, I just feel amazing, I’m going to the Olympic Games!”
*Photos are courtesy of ITTF (Thorsten Gohl photographer)