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Prepare for launch: Table tennis Olympians tune up in Rocket City

HUNTSVILLE – Before the hardware was passed out, members of the U.S. team preparing for the Paris Games received a special gift from the organizers of the USA Table Tennis National Championships.

The six athletes – Olympians Kanak Jha, Rachel Sung, Lily Zhang, and Amy Wang; and Paralympians Tahl Leibovitz, Jenson Van Emburgh, and Ian Seidenfeld – were presented with NASA flight suits during a cake ceremony Saturday at the Von Braun Center’s South Hall. The tournament, which had more than 600 participants playing on 71 tables with one surrounded by stands and seats for the highest-rated categories, was played Wednesday through Sunday.

Hong Lin (Huntsville Sports Commission/Facebook)

Jha, from California, took the men’s championship and Hong Lin of North Carolina won the women’s title.

“Appreciate you guys for spending our week with us and wanted to give you a little going away present,” Joel Lamp, sports development manager for the Huntsville-Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said in presenting the suits. “That’s kind of a Huntsville-centric thing. Get your own space suit so that way you guys can reach for the stars when you go to Paris.”

The Paris Olympic Games are July 26-Aug. 11. The Paris Paralympic Games are Aug. 28-Sept. 8.

The National Championships were presented by the CVB, Huntsville Sports Commission, Downtown Huntsville Inc., the City of Huntsville and the VBC.

Kanak Jha, Mark Russell (Huntsville Sports Commission/Facebook)

“I think it’s been a great week for Huntsville, a great week for USA table tennis, a great week for the Olympians,” Lamp told 256 Today as action unwound. “Everybody’s had a great time. They’ve enjoyed the venue from the feedback we’ve gotten. They’ve enjoyed being able to walk around downtown, go to the park, come back in and play their matches. So it’s been a really good week from that standpoint.

“You know, it’s made a significant economic impact, but it’s also exposed Huntsville (to new visitors). We’ve seen a lot of our people coming out to watch, and so I think it’s been successful from that standpoint. We finished on a strong note and look forward to talking with them and see what we can do down the road.”

There were a total of 115 events, including 31 open and age group and rating championships and 38 doubles titles. There were also divisions for participants with Parkinson’s disease and for those using “hardbat” or “sandpaper” paddles. The men’s and women’s singles were sponsored by the Hsing Family Foundation with a $7,000 first-place prize

Selected winners:

(256 Today)
  • Men’s Singles: Kanak Jha
  • Women’s Singles: Hong Lin
  • Men’s Doubles: Nanden Naresh/Daniel Tran
  • Women’s Doubles: Amy Wang/Rachel Sung
  • Mixed doubles: Amy Wang/Andrew Cao
  • U21 Men’s Singles: Nanden Naresh
  • U21 Women’s singles: Mandy Yu
  • U11 Boys’ Singles: Evan Dong
  • U11 Girls’ singles: Anya Shanbhag
  • Men’s 80+ Singles: Pete May
  • Women’s 80+ Singles: Alice Tym
  • Men’s 85+ Singles: William Farrar
  • Hardbat Men’s Singles: Vlad Razvan Farcas
  • Hardbat Women’s Singles: Kheith Cruz
  • Hardbat Doubles: Bin Hai Chu/Ali Ammar
  • Sandpaper Open: bin Hai Chu
  • Parkinson Open: Linda Bramhall
  • Para Class 3-5: Jenson Van Emburgh
  • Para Class 6-7: Ian Seindenfeld
  • Para Class 8-10: Tahl Leibovitz

May plays out of the North Alabama Table Tennis Club (NATTC) featuring players mostly from Madison and Morgan counties. Another club player, Gang Wang who is a professor at UAH, placed third in the tough U1700 Adult division.

The NATTC’s top player, 2024 Alabama state champion David Landry of Huntsville, advanced to the Round of 16 in 30-and-Over Men’s Singles and U4000 Men’s Doubles with partner Tuo Wang.

From the Northeast Alabama Table Tennis Club, which represents the Gadsden-Oxford area, member Mitch Conroy and partner Joel Friedman (independent) reached the Round of 32 in U4000 Men’s Doubles.

For more results, including a by-club breakdown, visit https://www.omnipong.com/T-tourney.asp?t=103&r=3834.

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