10 Questions with Team USA Table-Tennis Star, Lily Zhang
Added by Shannon Hovan on July 7, 2012.
Lily Zhang - Table-Tennis
For teenage table-tennis phenom, Lily Zhang, international competitions are second nature. This summer, in London, Lily has yet another chance to showcase the experience and mental toughness that earned her the title, Olympian.
1. You started competing in National and International competition in 2009, at age 13. Do you recall how it felt, at such a young age, to be competing at such a high level?
Actually, I started competing internationally at 10 years old and I have to say it was definitely the most exciting thing ever. Being able to travel to so many countries was like a dream to me and every single tournament was an experience that has helped me develop not only my table tennis skills but my social skills as well.
2. At 16 years old you are just a teenager; how much of your daily life revolves around training and competing in the sport of table tennis? Has this year been more strenuous than others with preparations for the Olympic Games?
I’m currently 15 years old but I turn 16 soon. I’ve dedicated much of my time to table tennis and sacrificed many activities for a normal teenager but it’s completely worth it. I love table tennis and my dream has always been to go to Olympics so this year may have been a little more stressful than others, especially having to balance school and table tennis at the same time.
3. You have won championships as a singles player and as a doubles player, and will be competing in singles in London. Did you start out as a singles or doubles player?
I think everybody has to start out as a single player first before they can learn how to play doubles. However, I love playing both.
4. Would you say that competing in doubles has helped develop you into such a strong singles player? What aspects of the doubles game carry over into your individual singles game?
Doubles is definitely helpful to all aspects of table tennis. Teamwork is so crucial in doubles and the strategies I develop with my doubles partner can also turn out to be useful in singles matches.
5. What gets you focused and ready for a match or competition? How much of table tennis is mental as opposed to technical?
Before the match, I try to relax a bit because I tend to play much better relaxed. However, during the match I always focus and give it my all 100%. Not many people know, but the mental game is a huge aspect of table tennis. It’s important to keep a calm, cool mind during the match and not let losing a point or outside disturbances distract you. That way, you can focus on your strategy and your own game.
6. Is representing the US in the Olympic Games the highest accomplishment for an athlete?
Representing the US in the Olympic Games is definitely one of the highest accomplishments out there. Being able to wear the US flag and play for my country will be such an enormous honor and I feel such pride to be able to do just that.
7. In your eyes, as a top competitor in your sport heading into London, is winning gold simply a goal, or is it the only option?
Winning the gold is not the most important thing to me, though it definitely would be amazing. I just can’t wait to be able to go out there and compete wearing the US flag and play the best I can for myself and my country.
8. Aside from competition, what are you most looking forward to in terms of the experience of being an Olympian?
I am so excited for the entire event! It will be an experience like never before and it will be so amazing meeting all the people from different events and being able to interact with them. I know I’ll make friendships that will last forever there.
9. Throughout your career, did the accomplishment of participating in the Olympic Games always seem attainable?
In the beginning, going to the Olympics was just sort of a long, distant dream but as time wore on, I really began believing I could make it. Now that I’ve made it, I can’t even describe how amazing it feels.
10. Is there a special camaraderie that exists between fellow Olympians? If any member of Team USA were to win a medal, would it be as if you won it as well?
Of course! I think our team is one of the best and we wouldn’t be here without having a special bond between all the athletes and supporters. If any team USA member won a medal, I couldn’t be more proud of the country I represent and it’d be like winning a medal myself.
Lily Zhang - Table-Tennis
We will continue our 2012 Team USA / London Olympics Interview Series all month leading up to the start of the Games. Find all the interviews and more Team USA coverage on the DoubleGSports.com Team USA page.