- Nihil Kumar becomes the second youngest table tennis paddler from the U.S. to qualify for an Olympics, followed by compatriot Kanak Jha.
Two Indian American table tennis players have been selected to represent the United States at the Tokyo Olympics Summer Games. Kanak Jha, 20 of Milpitas, California, and Nikhi Kumar, 17, of San Jose, California are part of a team of six elite players. They include Lily Zhang, Juan Liu, Huijing Wang and Xin Zhou.
The U.S. is anticipating sending about 600 athletes to the Olympics, beginning July 23. “It could be the country’s largest Olympic contingent since the 1996 Atlanta Games, which included more than 640 American athletes,” The Washington Post reported. “The group will continue to grow through the end of June, and the full Team USA roster must be finalized by the first week of July.”
Jha and Lily Zhang qualified for the games because of their IITF (International Table Tennis Federation) World Rankings, according to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee. Jha is rated 25th, while Zhang is 28th. Meanwhile, Kumar, Liu, Wang and Zhou qualified for the games at a competition in 2020.
Jha, who began playing table tennis at age 6, became the youngest member of the entire U.S. Olympic team for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. He was also the first American born in the 2000s to qualify for an Olympics. Jha, however, lost opening matches in singles and team events in Rio. He also competed at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in the boy’s event, in which he won a bronze medal.
Kumar is the second youngest table tennis paddler from the U.S. to qualify for an Olympics, followed by compatriot Jha. Kumar has been playing for almost seven years since 2013. The left-handed player qualified for the World Table Tennis Championships for men when he was just 14. He was a finalist in the singles event. He won the Mini Cadet Boys Singles Championship at the 2016 China Junior and Cadet Open-ITTF Golden Series Junior circuit. The same year, he was part of an India Community Center contingent that claimed 19 gold, 14 silver and 18 bronze medals at the 2016 U.S. National Championship event in Las Vegas, Nevada. Kumar In 2019, the 16-year-old took home a gold medal at the Pan American Games in Peru.