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Table Tennis team set to serve for Tokyo

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Three of the four members of the Australian table tennis team named for the Tokyo Olympic Games were members of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games team, with the fourth member, former Commonwealth Games athlete Stephanie Sang continuing her sensational return to the elite level after eight years away from the sport.

After moving to Australia at 15 to study, Sang became an Australian citizen in 2006 and made the decision to represent the green and gold internationally, quickly becoming our nation’s top ranked player. At the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, Sang joined with teammates Miao Miao, Jian Fang Lay and May Cho to reach the women’s team gold medal match, losing to Singapore 0-3 in the final, to claim the silver medal.

In 2008, Sang represented Australia at the Beijing Olympics and was selected to play at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, but withdrew from the team. This decision also saw Sang change her focus from table tennis to raising her two children, born in 2011 and 2013, and starting her own business.

Ten years later, the now 33-year-old mother of two young table tennis players, has picked up the paddle again and returned to her best, earning selection for Tokyo, driven by a desire to play on the international stage in front of her children.

“It wasn’t easy coming back after eight years away from table tennis – but I felt like I can still play, and I still have that emotional connection to the sport and I wanted to be with the best players in the country,” Sang told the Australian Olympic Committee.

“Now my kids have grown up, I want them to experience what table tennis and the Olympics can offer. I want to show them in actions, not just words – so they know if you set up a goal and fight for it, sometimes you can reach it. They’ll be able to look back this and thing ‘mum did a great thing’.”

Sang is joined on the team by Gold Coast 2018 team member David Powell, Michelle Bromley and Chris Yan.

Powell, a two-time Commonwealth Games athlete, joined Heming Hu and fellow Olympic teammate Chris Yan, to finish fifth in the men’s team event on the Gold Coast, and competed in the men’s singles, men’s doubles, and mixed doubles events. Powell debuted at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, before going on to represent Australia at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Tokyo will be the Victorian’s second Olympic experience.

Gold Coast and Glasgow teammate Chris Yan will also make his second Olympic appearance in Tokyo. Yan joined Powell and Hu on the men’s team which finished fifth at the Gold Coast, he also competed in the men’s singles event finishing 17th, and the men’s doubles and mixed doubles events. In Glasgow, Yan competed in the mixed doubles, the men’s doubles, and the men’s team events.

Bromley joined with teammates Melissa Tapper, Miao Miao, and Jian Fang Lay to reach the bronze medal match in the women’s team event at the 2018 Games. The foursome fell to the England team 1-3 to finished in fourth place. Bromley joined with Tapper to finish fifth in the women’s doubles event.

It has been a stellar two-year period for the New South Welshwoman, earning her first Commonwealth Games selection in 2018, and now securing her debut Olympic selection for Tokyo after more than a decade of close calls that resulted in her missing the teams for Beijing, London and Rio.

“When I realised that I’d not only won the qualification event but qualified for Tokyo I was in utter disbelief,” Bromley said of her selection.

“Going into the event, I was seeded fourth on paper, but in my mind, my results over the past 12 months showed me that I should be able to come top one or two.”

“To secure my spot by beating Australia’s number one player (Jian Fang Lay) who has been to five Olympic Games was unbelievable.”

“Even though I’d been knocked back three times for both Commonwealth Games and the Olympics, there were always things along the way that would keep me interested in the game, for instance, a breakthrough win against someone that was ranked above me, or being put into a world championships team.

“I always felt like I was improving with my game, so it was never like I was going backwards by missing out on those opportunities,” she continued.

“Because of that, I truly felt like I was still in the mix to be Australia’s best table tennis player.”

The four athletes topped the Table Tennis selection trials event held in January to earn their nominations on the team.

Table Tennis Australia CEO Scott Houston told the Australian Olympic Committee he was excited with the selection announcement.

“I am thrilled to see Michelle, Stephanie, Chris and David qualify for Tokyo,” Mr Houston said to the AOC. “They all have their own unique stories and their path to qualification was not easy.

“No doubt they will be great ambassadors for the Australian Olympic Team and TTA wishes them all the best on their Olympic journey.”

Australia Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman congratulated the athletes on their selection for Tokyo, which brings the total named to 74 of a team expected to grow to around 480 athletes.

“It is fantastic to welcome these four athletes to the Australian Olympic Team today to celebrate one year to go until the start of the rescheduled Tokyo Games,” Mr Chesterman said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic makes this a challenging time for athletes and sports across the world, but competitors like Stephanie, Michelle, David and Chris continue to strive for excellence in the pursuit of their Tokyo Olympic dreams.

“It is wonderful they can now focus all their efforts to be ready for when the Games begin on July 23 next year.”

2020 Australian Olympic Table Tennis Team

Name Age State Olympic Games Commonwealth Games Experience
Michelle Bromley 32 NSW Debut 2018 – Women’s Team – 4th; Women’s Doubles – 5th
Stephanie Sang 33 VIC 2nd (2008) 2006 – Women’s Team – Silver
David Powell 29 VIC 2nd (2016) 2018 – Men’s Team – 5th; Men’s Singles – 17th; Men’s Doubles – 17th; Mixed Doubles – 17th
2014 – Men’s Team – 5th; Men’s Singles – R32; Men’s Doubles – R16; Mixed Doubles – R16
Chris Yan 31 NSW 2nd (2016) 2018 – Men’s Team – 5th; Men’s Singles – 17th; Men’s Doubles – 5th; Mixed Doubles – 9th
2014 – Men’s Team – 5th; Men’s Doubles – R16; Mixed Doubles – R32

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