US Women’s Team Earns Gold at Pan Am Games
by Barbara Wei
Team USA Women secured a hard-fought win 3-1 against Puerto Rico to be crowned Pan Am Champions once again. They had previously won gold in 2015, and now have beaten the 2019 champions to reclaim the title. The final was highly emotional – the outstanding table tennis performance on both sides was only the beginning.
Amy Wang and Rachel Sung, gold medalists in Women’s doubles, opened the team tie with a 3-0 win over Melanie Diaz and Brianna Burgos. The US pair was down to business, knowing this match was essential to winning the team tie.
In the second match, two good friends met on the table. Adriana Diaz, the darling of Puerto Rico, played Lily Zhang, the U.S. women’s queen bee. Lily took the first two games easily 11-7, 11-4. Adriana seemed low energy, and not her usual self, but then in the pivotal 3rd game, Adriana stepped up and barely eked it out 12-10. In the fourth, it was again very close, with Adriana closing it out 11-9. The players are 2-2, and Lily goes up 10-7 in the fifth. Puerto Rico knows Adriana must win this match to truly have a chance at gold. Adriana pulls out a few tough points, and suddenly Adriana has match point at 11-10. After a long intense rally, Adriana nips the edge on Lily’s forehand and pulls out the match 12-10 in the fifth. Puerto Rico’s chances for gold stay alive.
Rachel Sung now has a heavy weight on her shoulders, as she faced Brianna Burgos. Team USA knew that if Rachel could win this match, their chances for gold were much higher. Rachel blazed to a 2-0 lead, but then Brianna fought back in a tough 3rd game to win 14-12. With a pep talk and some strategic suggestions by Coach Gao Jun, Rachel won the fourth game 11-1 in only 3 minutes, giving the U.S. a 2-1 lead.
Then, the battle of the final, Amy Wang vs. Adriana Diaz. The two traded games until 2-2, and then 10-10. After Lily’s loss to Adriana deuce in the fifth, the team was nervous. Deuce point after deuce point after deuce point, and it was 14-14 in the fifth. Amy then wins two rallies, pinning Adriana far from the table and it’s 16-14 for Team USA. The usual calm, quiet and focused Amy let out a big smile, and a squeal of happiness as her teammates Lily and Rachel jumped into the court. The three celebrated with hugs, gratitude and soaked in the moment from the crowd.
USA’s Women’s team earned higher and more medals than any other country at the Pan Am Games, winning gold in teams and doubles, and bronze in singles. Puerto Rico would come in second for overall performance with one gold, one silver and one bronze, followed by Brazil with one silver and two bronze.
Congratulations to Lily, Amy and Rachel for their outstanding performance!