North American Continental Olympic Trials – Roger Dickson

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April 20-22, 2012 - Cary, NC

It was the same gym but it had a very different feel than it had in February! The final stage for the right to go to London had been set and the top four qualifiers from Canada and the US came to claim their ticket.

The Canadians had sent their top three qualifiers and a coach’s pick for both the Men’s and Women:

Team Canada

· Chris Xu (CAN)

· Anqi Luo (CAN)

· Sara Yuen (CAN)

· Shirley Fu (CAN)

· Hongtao Chen (CAN)

· Pierre-Luc Hinse (CAN) - Qualified for London 2012

· Andre Ho (CAN) - Qualified for London 2012

· Pierre-Luc Theriault (CAN

The US sent the top four qualifiers from the February event, minus Gao Jun who had injured her knee:

Team USA

· Ariel Hsing (USA) - Qualified for London 2012 (Singles & Team)

· Lily Zhang (USA) - Qualified for London 2012 (Singles & Team)

· Erica Wu (USA) - Qualified for London 2012 (Team)

· Judy Hugh (USA)

· Michael Landers (USA)

· Barney Reed, Jr. (USA)

· Timothy Wang (USA) - Qualified for London 2012

· Adam Hugh (USA)

The upset of the Men’s first round event had to be Andre Ho, who came into the event off everyone’s radar. He had struggled at the qualifier but came to Cary with a single focus – win the ticket! In the first final of the event Andre stepped up and defeated teammate Pierre – Luc Hinse to achieve his Olympic dream.

The first Women’s event would be very important as the Canadian already had one spot with Mo Zhang winning her ticket via being the Pan-Am Women’s champion. So if a Canadian won the first ticket the US Women would be only able to get one ticket to London and possibly not qualify a Women’s team. Ariel Hsing had all that on her young shoulders as she faced Chris Xu from Canada. Chris is a defensive player who gets more comfortable the longer the point and Ariel is a fast attacker –winning the point early in the rallies! Amazingly the California teen finds a comfortable middle gear between spin & speed and brings home her ticket 4 - 2 (5, -9, -7, 10, 8, 4).

The Men’s second round found Hinse back in the final match for his ticket. 2012 was Pierre-Luc’s fourth Olympic qualifying attempt; he had fell one step short on the last three and found himself down 3-2 to Timothy Wang. All the pressure situations in the past must have prepared him well as Pierre-Luc won the last two games at eight to get his London ticket.

The pressure on the Women had changed, now there is more than the first round! Whoever wins this round will get a team spot at the London Olympics for their country. The format also changed from single elimination to round robin groups with the top two advancing from the two groups.

Erica Wu lost in a three way tie breaker in her group, so went on to the consolation match. Sara Yuen and Chris Xu advanced from group 1 to play group 2 advancers Lily Zhang and Luo Anqi. In dramatic style Lily Zhang completes a semi-final comeback from down 0-2 to pull out the victory over Chris Xu in the 7th! The other semi final does not have that type of drama as Luo Anqi sets up a group rematch with a 4-1 victory over Sara Yuen. With teammates cheering the final spot goes to Lily Zhang and the USA will get a team spot too!

As the Canadians have the first two tickets, the third will go to the highest finishing American and like the ladies it changes formats to round robin. With four US players and two Canadian, who would have thought that the groups finishing order would pair teammates against each other in the semi finals? On court one it is Pierre-Luc Thieriault against Hongtao Chen. This match may determine who the third team member is for Canada and it is a counter attacking battle that in the end goes to the speedy Hongtao 4-3!

On court 2, in the other semi it is young gun Timothy Wang versus teammate and occasional practice partner Barney J. Reed. Timothy comes out strong and gets an early lead that Barney almost overcomes! A pressure packed second sees big swings in nerves and quality of play from both players, but Timothy steals the second 13-11! Riding the emotional wave Timothy captures the third only to have Barney control the fourth game start to finish. Up three to one in games Timothy gets some breaks to secure the final game and his Olympic ticket.

The final match of the event saw Timothy Wang come back from 10-6 to win in seven over Hongtao Chen. It was a great way to end the event as the USA team was the loudest cheering section in the gym for their teammate and newest Olympian.

Newgy wishes the best of luck to all the North American qualifiers as they chase the Olympic dream in London this August!

Roger Dickson

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