Zhang takes the bronze medal at Youth Olympic Games


Lily Zhang made history.

The recent Palo Alto grad won the bronze medal in the women's singles table tennis competition at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China on Wednesday.

She earned the first Olympic table tennis medal of any kind, not only for the United States, for the Americas.

"I wanted this medal so much, not just for me, but for my country," Zhang said. "I had to keep myself calm before the match and try not to think about it too much. I feel like I am floating I am that ecstatic."

Zhang, who lost in Tuesday's semifinals, roared back to down Japan's 60th-ranked Miyu Kato, 10-12, 11-9, 12-10, 9-11, 11-9, 11-8, in a match that lasted just over an hour.

"During the match, it was vital for me to keep calm and not to rush," Zhang said. "Sometimes it was necessary just to play a little slower. In the fourth game, when led 9-5 and then lost, I started thinking ahead, I kept thinking that if I could win the game I'd be three-one ahead, a big advantage."

Zhang's coach Lily Yip kept reminding her not to worry and to continue being aggressive.

"After Lily lost the fourth game, I told her not to worry, don't play too safe, work harder and fight," Yip said. "Both players focused on their backhands and they were a little afraid to use their forehands. I tried to encourage Lily to move to direction of the play and to be prepared to play long rallies because Miyu played very safely. So it was important that Lily was aggressive."

Zhang, who competed at the 2012 London Olympics, had dropped out of the top 100 in the August rankings, which are calculated using several variables. She started the year ranked No. 67.

She'll end the year with something special for USA table tennis.

"The feeling is just amazing," Yip said. "A medal, the first ever Olympic medal for the United States."

A full replay of the bronze medal match is available here.

Zhang, the top-ranked American, had dropped a difficult, 11-1, 5-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-6, decision to Hong Kong's Hoo Kem Doo, who entered the competition ranked 27th in the world by the International Table Tennis Federation.

China's Gaoyang Liu went on to beat Kem Doo for the women's singles' gold medal.

Zhang and partner Krishnateja Avvari opened mixed international play on Wednesday, losing to Chinese Taipei, 2-1.

Zhang won her singles match, beating Ssu-Hua Chiu, 11-8, 7-11, 3-11, 11-8, 11-9, and then lost a hotly-contested doubles match, with Avvari, 15-17, 12-10, 12-10, 11-9, to Chiu and Heng-Wei Yang.

Yang beat Avvari, 11-8, 11-5, 11-5, in the men's singles match.

The U.S. pair is scheduled to meet the second African team on Thursday.

Elsewhere, the United States women's 3x3 basketball team dominated Indonesia, 21-2, on the second day of preliminary play in Group B.

Katie Lou Samuelson, the younger sister of Stanford's Bonnie and Karlie Samuelson, is a substitute for the team.

It took the Americans 5:49 to reach 21 points, about two minutes less than it took to beat Romania, 21-3, on Monday.

Indonesia was 0 for 15 from the floor, making both of its free throw attempts to avoid the shutout. Connecticut commit Napheesa Collier was 11 of 15 from the floor, including 1 long-range shot for a total of 12 points.

Games are 10 minutes, or when a team reaches 21 points. Each basket and free throw is worth one point and a long-range shot is worth two points.

After two days, the United States, Czech Republic and Belgium are undefeated in Group B. China, Germany and Hungary are each 2-0 in Group A.

The Americans are scheduled to meet Thailand (1-1) on Wednesday.

— Palo Alto Online Sports

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