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2023 Coach of the Year Awards

by Barbara Wei

2023 USA Table Tennis Coach of the Year Awards.

Congratulations to our USA Table Tennis 2023 Coach of the Year awardees. Each awardee has contributed greatly to the sport of table tennis and have made an indelible impact on those they have coached and mentored throughout the years.

NATIONAL COACH OF THE YEAR – GAO JUN

Gao Jun, 2023 National Coach of the Year

Gao Jun, national women’s team coach, is a 4x Olympian and Olympic Silver medalist (1992 Barcelona in Doubles). She is the head coach of California Table Tennis and 9x U.S. Champion. In 2023 she coached the U.S. women’s national team to success at the Pan Am Championships and Pan Am Games. At the 2023 Pan Am Championships in Havana, Cuba, the US Women’s team earned their quota spot for the Paris Olympics by winning gold in teams. At the 2023 Pan Am Games, the US women’s team earned gold in teams and doubles and bronze in singles. Gao Jun’s efforts in developing and growing the US women’s team have earned her this well deserved recognition.


MARK NORDBY DEVELOPMENTAL COACH OF THE YEAR – THILINA PIYADASA

Thilina Piyadasa, 2023 Mark Nordby Developmental Coach of the Year.

Thilina Piyadasa, originally from Sri Lanka, resides in Fountain Valley, California where he is the head coach of the Orange County Table Tennis Academy (OCTTA). He has been playing table tennis since he was 7 years old and credits the sport with “giving him many good things in his life, including his wife and his USA citizenship.” Thilina Piyadasa is most proud of coaching Tashiya Piyadasa. Tashiya won silver at the World Hopes Challenge 2023 in France and 4 golds and 1 bronze at the Pan Am Youth Championships in the U15 and U13 categories.


Thilina is “so glad to be receiving this honor from USA Table Tennis and hopes to do my best to develop young talents and table tennis enthusiasts.”


VOLUNTEER COACH OF THE YEAR – HONG LIN

Hong Lin, 2023 Volunteer Coach of the Year.

Originally from China, Hong Lin has made an indelible mark on coaching in her new home in North Carolina. She won the Volunteer Coach of the Year award for her work with the US National Team at the 2023 summer national team training camp in Charleston, WV, and subsequent coaching at the WTT Youth Contender event in the same city.  Hong Lin coaches at North Carolina International Table Tennis. She likes table tennis because “until the last point is over, you never know what the result is, it’s always challenging.”


DOC COUNSILMAN TECHNOLOGY COACH OF THE YEAR – SEAN O’NEILL

Sean O’Neill, 2023 Doc Counsilman Technology Coach of the Year.

USA Table Tennis recognizes Sean O'Neill, based in Portland, OR, for his trailblazing work with the STIGA Cybershape Eleven VR Table Tennis Project alongside Teddy Abesamis from Detroit, MI. The project has garnered attention for its virtual coaching approach, aiming to elevate Teddy's game from a 1700 to a 2000 USATT level, relying solely on remote coaching and training.

 

Sean O'Neill, based at the Paddle Palace Table Tennis Club in Portland, OR, is a previous recipient of the USOPC Doc Counsilman Science award in 2007 for his work in remote video coaching and analysis for the US Para team, Sean has also been recognized as the USATT National Coach of the Year in 2005, USATT Development Coach of the Year in 2010, and twice as USATT Para Development Coach of the Year in 2018 and 2022.


NATIONAL PARALYMPIC COACH OF THE YEAR – VLAD FARCAS

Vlad Farcas, 2023 National Paralympic Coach of the Year.

Vlad Farcas started coaching full time in 2018 at the San Antonio Table Tennis Club. In 2023, Vlad coached the U.S. paralympic players at major international events, including ones in France, Slovenia and Montenegro where they performed well. At the 2023 Para Pan Games, Vlad was an integral part of USA Table Tennis securing 3 gold medals and 3 spots at the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games. Vlad is a National Para Team coach and says he “enjoys working with para-athletes because they all have great personalities and determination.”


PARA DEVELOPMENTAL COACH OF THE YEAR – LIDNEY CASTRO

Lidney Castro, 2023 National Paralympic Development Coach of the Year.

Lidney Castro grew up in Santos, Brazil and now coaches at Maryland Table Tennis Center. He’s played table tennis since he was 6 years old, and played professionally until 2017 when he became a full-time coach. Lidney’s star Para player Sam Altshuler won a silver medal at the ITTA Fa20 Copa Cristina Hoffmann tournament, silver at the U.S. Championships (Class 6/7 combined) and played at the 2023 Parapan American Games. Lidney says his coaching philosophy is to “push the players to give their 100% and enjoy their time on the table.” He has “learned so much from his student and enjoys seeing their improvement at their own pace.”


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