Palo Alto High grad Lily Zhang had a quick introduction to the Olympic Games four years ago in London as she exited the table tennis competition on the opening day.
Zhang now has four years of experience under her belt and will take a shot on improving her Olympic debut this summer at the Rio Olympic Games.
A bronze medalist at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, Zhang reserved her place in the Women's Singles event for Rio at the ITTF-North America Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in Markham, Toronto. The event was held in April.
After recording wins against Canada's Lu Yi (15-13, 11-5, 11-5, 11-3) and compatriot Crystal Wang (11-8, 11-6, 11-8, 9-11, 5-11, 11-9), Zhang accounted for a second colleague in the guise of Zheng Jiaqi (11-3, 11-4, 11-5, 11-9) to secure the pressure invitation to the Brazilian city in August.
"I still can't believe it; it feels like I'm in a cloud, so excited and proud to represent the U.S. at the Olympics", said Zhang, who was quick to acknowledge her family.
"I know they would express how proud they are of me," she added. "Especially my parents, they are always telling me how proud they are of me."
Even though still a teenager at 19, Zhang is now an old hand at competing in events on which the eyes of the world are focused.
Notably in 2009, she competed in the World Championships in Yokohama when only 12. Four years ago in London, she was only 16 years old.
"I definitely do think this time around I'll be more prepared and a little less star struck", admitted Zhang, who was smiling from ear to ear and had words of advice for any young player harbouring hopes of following in her footsteps.
"My advice is to have passion for what you do," she affirmed. "Passion will allow you to achieve anything."