(By Rachel Sung)
Just before I turned 15 this year, I managed to achieve something I previously thought unachievable. Thanks to a little extra training a month and a half outside of the US, and a little luck, I placed as a finalist in Women’s Singles at US Nationals this year. Achieving this title reaffirmed to me that truly, with effort, nothing is impossible.
Towards the end of May, after the ITTF Thailand Tournament, I flew to Zhejiang, China for ten days of training in Coach Chen Jian’s club. Going into the ten days of training, I originally associated Chinese training with only hardship due to long hours of training and grueling fitness and a reputation of strict coaches. Surprisingly, Coach Chen’s club was unlike traditional Chinese training. The amicable atmosphere facilitated my individual interactions with everyone in the club. Despite the shorter practice sessions, the quality of the practice always remained high. This environment changed my initial perception of Chinese training.
Straight after China, I flew directly to Korea for a training camp with the US Junior Team led by US coach, Gao Jun. It was probably the best two weeks of my life. Even with a language barrier, we were able to communicate through a series of hand motions. Over time we were able to pick up a little bit of Korean which showed that the training not only improved our table tennis capabilities but also our cultural understanding. Training in Korea really helped me a lot because it targeted one of my biggest tactical problems: transitioning from my backhand to my middle. The Koreans had a series of highly beneficial drills that practice transitioning from the two corners to the middle in a high speed rally. During the camp we also played many matches which successfully helped our whole team prepare for the upcoming Pan Am Junior Championships; our team eventually won the gold medal for both boys and girls which qualified the US for the World Junior Championships in Bangkok, Thailand later this year.
2019 Nationals provided an unforgettable experience for many reasons: it was my first time winning Junior Girls Doubles with my twin, Joanna Sung, and my first time reaching finals of Women’s Open Singles. When I first walked out on the court to play the finals, my palms were sweaty, knees weak, and my arms were heavy; I also felt like I was hyperventilating. However, hearing the encouraging cheers of the crowd gave me a sense of clarity and helped me to calm down. Since I was little, I always dreamed about receiving a bouquet of flowers from someone and I never imagined my first bouquet of flowers would be from USATT. Thank you so much USATT for a memorable culmination of months of traveling and training.