Anqi Luo impressed at the recent Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games
Photo By: Paul Devlin
2014 Second Youth Olympic Games (Click here to access this section)
Now Six Days Remain:Agonising times; that was the scenario for Krishnateja Avvari and Lily Zhang of the United States at the recently completed Nikon 2014 Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open.
Both suffered defeats by narrow margins in full distance contests. In the Junior Girls’ Singles event, Lily Zhang was beaten in the second round by Japan’s Yuko Kato, whilst in the Cadet Boys’ Singles competition Krishnateja Avvari lost the Korea’s Cho Daeseong, the champion elect, in a tension packed contest.
Alongside Canada’s Anqi Luo, they form the group of players who will represent North America at the forthcoming Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games; the table tennis events commencing on Sunday 17th August.
Places secured in the prestigious multi-sport event but by very different routes.
The most comfortable journey was that experienced by Lily Zhang; she did not have to raise her racket in anger. She was one of three players to gain entry by virtue of her World Ranking in February.
However, for Krishnateja Avvari and Anqi Luo, it was a case of if you don’t succeed at first then try again.
Vilanova de Gaia
At the beginning of the year Kunal Chodri of the United States alongside Anqi Luo and Tina Lin were the North American players on duty at the World Qualification Tournament in Vilanova de Gaia, Portugal; Krishnateja Avvari was not present.
No member of the trio gained their invitation card for Nanjing in the Portuguese city but the best performance was that of Anqi Luo.
Alas for Kunal Chodri and Tina Lin it was three matches played, three defeats. In the Boys’ Singles event Kunal Chodri finished in fourth place in his first stage group behind Germany’s Kilian Ort, Chinese Taipei’s Yang Heng-Wei and Puerto Rico’s Brian Afanador.
Likewise it was fourth place for Tina Lin in the first phase of the Girls’ Singles competition; the top three positions being reserved by Romania’s Adina Diaconu, Thailand’s Tamolwan Khetkhuan and Uruguay’s Maria Pia Lorenzotti.
It was the end of the road for Kunal Chodri and Tina Lin; however, Anqi Luo fared better. She was beaten by Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem but overcame Australia’s Sarah Tan and the Czech Republic’s Krystina Stefcova. The latter was a win against the odds, at the time Krystina Stefcova was listed at no.56 on the Under Girls’ World Rankings, Anqi Luo was at no.68.
Second place in the group meant a passport to the main draw; it was in that stage in the vital contest to determine a Nanjing place that the progress of Anqi Luo halted. She was beaten by Japan’s Miyu Kato.
Next step on the journey for Anqi Luo was the Road to Nanjing Series – North America event in Mississauga; to some extent that was Vilanova de Gaia revisited.
Anqi Luo remained unbeaten in her first stage contests; she finished in first place in her group ahead Italy’s Georgia Piccolin and Portugal’s Rita Fins but in the main draw lost to Hungary’s Leila Imre.
Defeat in Mississauga on Tuesday 8th April, was followed by success on Wednesday 9th April.
The prior qualification of Lily Zhang meant that with only one female and one male representative per National Olympic Committee eligible to compete in the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games table tennis events; only Canadian players were present for North American Continental Tournament. Similar to the Road to Nanjing event, proceedings were held in Mississauga.
Anqi Luo was the clear favourite and she justified that status; in a group competition, without ever being extended to a deciding game, she finished ahead of Betty Guo, Michelle Liaw and Cherry Zheng.
Disappointment at the Road to Nanjing Tournament, success in the Continental event; it was the same for Krishnateja Avvari.
In the Road to Nanjing Series – North America tournament, at his first attempt to qualify for Nanjing, Krishnateja Avvari did not enjoy the best of fortunes.
Two matches, two defeats; he finished in third place in his group behind Austria’s Andrea Levenko and Sweden’s Carl Ahlander-Johansson. It was farewell at the first hurdle.
First Stage Defeat
Difficult times and at the North American Continental Qualification event, there were tense times.
In a group where all four players were from the United States, Krishnateja Avvari was beaten by Allen Wang but overcame Kunal Chodri and Aashay Patel to secure second place in the group and a place in the main draw. Allen Wang remained unbeaten to top the group.
One reverse but there were to be no more; in the second stage of affairs, he overcame the Canadians Filip Ilijevski and Klement Young to secure his Nanjing invitation card.
The task now is to shine in Nanjing and can any of the North Americans rise to the occasion?
Krishnateja Avvari is only 14 years old; his Cadet Boys’ Singles semi-final place in Hong Kong was a fine effort, reaching the last four in a strong field, was no mean effort.
Equally, at the recent Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, Anqi Luo, 17 years old, proved herself an integral member of the Canadian team and underlined the fact that on the big occasion, when the pressure mounts she can respond.
Against expectations Anqi Luo and Zhang Mo recovered from a two games to nil deficit against England’s Joanna Parker and Kelly Sibley to clinch the Women’s Doubles bronze medal.
Pride of Place
Fine performances from Krishnateja Avvari and Anqi Luo, both in the heat of battle showed a maturity beyond their years. However, in the ranking list of shining performances, pride of place must go to Lily Zhang.
In 2009 when only 13 years old she won the Junior Girls’ Singles title at the Canadian Junior and Cadet Open in Laval beating compatriot Natalie Sun in the final; a quite remarkable performance and three years later in the Indian city of Hyderabad, she shone again.
She reached the quarter-final stage of the Girls’ Singles event at the 2012 World Junior Championships; losing to China’s Guo Ruochen, it was an outstanding effort, a player from outside the traditional stronholds of Asia and Europe had reached the last eight.
All three have shown the character, the strong mentality to succeed; in Nanjing that will be a vital factor.