(By Joanna Sung)
When I first learned that I claimed a spot to represent USA at the Junior Pan American games, I knew that I had to cherish such a great opportunity. I spent afternoons training to polish my skills and prepare for the upcoming tournament. At night, I frantically tried to get ahead in my studies in order to fully focus during the tournament without any distractions.
The tournament, which took place in the Dominican Republic, proved to be one of the most tiring tournaments I ever played. Due to COVID, we all wore our masks for hours in a hot humid stadium. We left the hotel early in the morning and returned late at night. Every night, all the players had to stay up doing laundry as we went through many shirts because of the heat. Toward the end, I had little to no energy left to even wash my face in the mornings.
However, the tournament also proved to be one of the most fruitful and fulfilling experiences of my life. For the first time, Team USA sent four teams, a total of 16 players and three coaches. United, the team cheered passionately for the USA player and I felt that we really competed as a whole team instead of individual players. As for myself, I felt an immense sense of pride for managing to uphold my position as the third player in the final team match against Mexico. With our team tied 1-1 against Mexico, the third match I played proved to be especially crucial. I managed to play freely and with a competitive spirit to successfully take down the third match. Securing our position to compete at the World Juniors Championship, I felt extremely grateful towards my teammates and our coach, Gao Jun. As a team, we proudly stepped onto the first place podium with big smiles.
I’m very grateful to all the coaches and teammates’ continuous help throughout the tournament. Thank you also to Coach Zhang Tianrui at TTA as well for helping me train before the tournament, Team Spartans for letting me play so many practice matches with you all, and ICC for the friendly support. Lastly, thank you Butterfly for the awesome equipment that I used during the tournament and I will continue to train hard.
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