Indian-American table tennis stars Kanak Jha and Nikhil Kumar are among the six elite players to represent the US at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo starting July 23.
According to NBC Sports, many of the qualified athletes will need to be reaffirmed by their national governing body and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee after the Olympics have been postponed to 2021.
But there are no signs that any of their spots are in danger, he said.
Kumar and three others Juan Liu, former Chinese national team player, Huijing Wang, and Xin Zhou qualified for the games in a competition in 2020.
Kumar won the men’s qualifying tournament, with Zhou taking second place; Liu finished first on the women’s side, ahead of Wang second.
The four qualifiers joined Jha and Lily Zhang, who had previously qualified. (See the India West article here: https://bit.ly/2IdoySF
Jha and Zhang qualified for the games on the merit of being the highest-ranked American in their gender in the February 2020 ITTF World Rankings. Jha is 25th, while Zhang is 28th.
J holds the highest position in the rankings of 22 so far in September 2019.
The table tennis player from Milpitas, California made his Olympic debut in Rio in 2016, competing in both singles and doubles. In the ITTF Mens World Cup 2014, Jha became the youngest to ever play in the World Cup at the age of 14.
Two years later, he became the first athlete born in the 2000s to qualify for a US Olympic team.
He competed in the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires and earned bronze, the first Olympic or Youth Olympic table tennis medal for the USA. In July 2019, Jha became the first American to four-peat in men’s singles at the national championships.
Kumar played in his first major tournament when he was 8. The left-handed player from San Jose, California won the Mini Cadet Boys Singles Championship at the 2016 China Junior and Cadet Open-ITTF Golden Series Junior circuit.
The rising star defeated Sirapat Wongthosarat, Wing Hang Shih and Yue Xu in straight sets in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals respectively to claim the title.
In 2016, he was part of an India Community Center contingent that claimed 19 gold, 14 silver and 18 bronze medals at the 2016 US National Championship event in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Kumar qualified for the men’s table tennis world championships when he was only 14. He was a finalist in singles.
In 2019, the 16-year-old took home a gold medal at the Pan American Games in Peru.
In 2020, Kumar became the second youngest American table tennis player to qualify for the Olympics at the age of 17.
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