A 2-time Olympian (London 2012 & Rio 2016) and featured on the Netflix documentary “Topspin”, Lily Zhang has become a local celebrity at SPiN in San Francisco.
Born in Redwood City, California, Zhang took up the sport at age 7, and soon started training at the Palo Alto Table Tennis Club. She competed in her first Olympics during London 2012, and was the youngest participant at just 16 years old.
At the young age of 20, Zhang has a very decorated resume including 2015 North American Champion (Gold in Singles & Team), 2014 US Women’s Singles & Doubles Champion and many more. She is currently a student at the University of California Berkeley, and in between her studies and tournaments, Zhang enjoys participating in SPiN’s Players’ Night and meeting her fans!
When and why did you start playing ping pong?
I started playing ping pong when I was 7 years old. My dad was a professor at Stanford University and we lived on campus. There just happened to be a ping pong table in the laundry room, so every time my family went to go do laundry, I would play with my parents to kill time. I even started to purposely throw clothes in the dirty laundry hamper just to have the chance to play more. A few months later, one of my friends brought me to the local ping pong club in Palo Alto and I completely fell in love with the sport.
What has ping pong taught you the most?
Ping pong has taught me passion, dedication, perseverance, but most importantly, to venture out of my comfort zone and take the risks to follow my dream.
Where do you see ping pong going?
I genuinely believe that ping pong has enormous potential to become one of the most popular sports in the U.S. Absolutely anyone can play it – whether you’re 5 years old or 75 years old. It’s so amazing to see people of all ages, ethnicities, genders, religions, etc., connect through their love of ping pong.
What do you love most about ping pong?
One of my favorite parts about ping pong is simply competing. There’s such a rush of adrenaline from playing in front of a massive crowd – it’s a mix of pure excitement and nervous jitters. I used to hate the pressure, but I’ve learned to embrace the intensity and it only fuels me to do better.