Olympic hopefuls Kanak Jha and Nikhil Kumar are Indian Americans who excel at table tennis.
N. Kumar Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
On July 23, the Tokyo Olympic Summer Games will begin, and six American athletes, including Indian American table tennis stars Kanak Jha and Nikhil Kumar, will compete on behalf of their country.
With the Olympics being moved to 2021, NBC Sports reports that many eligible athletes will need to have their eligibility re-verified by their national governing body and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
But it went on to say that there were no warning indicators that any of their habitats were in danger.
At a competition in 2020, Kumar and three others (former Chinese national team player Juan Liu, Huijing Wang, and Xin Zhou) qualified to compete in the Olympics.
Already qualified were Jha and Lily Zhang, therefore the four new entrants made the cut.
Jha and Zhang earned their spot in the Olympics by finishing as the top-ranked U.S. women and men, respectively, in the ITTF World Rankings for February 2020. Jha is ranked 25th and Zhang is ranked 28th.
Jha’s highest ever position in the rankings was 22nd, achieved in September of this year.
The table tennis player from Milpitas, California, made his Olympic debut in Rio in 2016, taking part in both the singles and doubles competitions. Jha, at the tender age of 14, made history as the youngest player in the history of the ITTF Men’s World Cup, competing in 2014.
He qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team in his sport two years later, making history as the first athlete born in the 2000s.
He took part in the 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and brought home the bronze medal, the United States’ first ever in men’s table tennis at the Olympic or Youth Olympic levels. Jha made history in July 2019 when he won the men’s singles national title for a record-tying fourth time.
Kumar, at the tender age of eight, competed in his first professional competition. The left-handed player from San Jose, California, won the Mini Cadet Boys Singles Championship in the 2016 China Junior & Cadet Open-ITTF Golden Series Junior.
With the India Community Center team, he won a combined total of 19 gold, 14 silver, and 18 bronze at the 2016 US National Championships held in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In 2020, at the age of 17, Kumar qualified as the second-youngest table tennis player in the United States to compete in the Olympics.