Nikhil Kumar and Tiffany Ke Win Gold at 2024 World Championships US National Team Trials
by Barbara Wei
After 3 days of intense competition, Nikhil Kumar and Tiffany Ke emerged victorious at the 2024 World Championship US National Team Trials which concluded on Sunday, January 14th in Corpus Christie, TX. The two have clinched their spots on the US team at the 2024 World Team Table Tennis Championships in Busan, South Korea (February 16-25).
Joining Tokyo Olympian and Bay Area native Nikhil on the men’s side will be the Chicagoland brother duo Sid and Nandan Naresh, North Carolina’s Jishan Liang and New York native Kai Zhang. Nikhil, who sat out the 2023 national team due to an injury, has kept up his competitive level. The two-time national champion (2022, 2023), UC Berkeley Junior and 2019 Pan Am Games team gold medalist did not drop a match during the tournament and was “pretty happy with his performance”.
Nikhil is eyeing a return to the Olympics. He has made preparations as such: “I’m taking a reduced course load [at UC Berkeley] to focus on the Olympic Trials in March. The World Championships will be a steppingstone for that. Small steps to build up to Olympic Trials. I’ve played four times in the World Championships – I’ve had the experience and [now] want to play the best I can and enjoy the experience as well.”
Sid was very happy with his performance, despite losing to his younger brother Nandan. The brothers finished 2nd and 3rd. Reflecting on his performance, Sid said that “losing to Nandan was a little bit hard, but I was able to bounce back…with so many matches 9-9 in the 7th or 9-9 in the 6th…I felt that playing with confidence and trusting my game was what it took to win those close matches.”
Singles: Tiffany Ke playing in women's singles in the final stage of the US Team Trials at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. Jan. 14, 2024. (Photo by USATT)
New stars were born on the Women’s side. With Lily Zhang and Amy Wang not competing at this year’s World Championships, the field in Corpus Christie was wide open for new talent. Tiffany Ke stepped into the limelight, losing only one match throughout to the event (to Rachel Wang, 9 in the 7th), to win the trials. For the past few months, Tiffany has been training in China full-time, and this title has given her relief and pride that her hard work is paying off. Her secret to success? “Honestly, I felt like, when I didn’t think about winning…it kept my nerves down and helped me focus on strategy and not as much on my emotions.”
Springing onto the scene in second place was Jessica Reyes-Lai, who only dropped matches to Tiffany Ke and Sarah Jalli. Joining Jessica as a newcomer on the adult national scene was Kayla Goodwin. Kayla credits her success to “mixing up her play and working on her mental game, including taking a moment to wait before starting points and fighting and pumping herself up.”
Final rankings for the 2024 World Championships National Team Trials:
- Nikhil Kumar
- Nandan Naresh
- Sid Naresh
- Jishan Liang
- Kai Zhang
- Mishel Levinski (alternate)
- Xiang Jing, Zhang (alternate)
- Ved Sheth (alternate)
- Tiffany Ke
- Jessica Reyes-Lai
- Kayla Goodwin
- Emily Tan
- Sarah Jalli
- Amber Liu (alternate)
- Rachel Wang (alternate)
- Isabella Xu (alternate)
*Amy Wang and Lily Zhang have chosen not to compete at the 2024 Busan World Team Championships.
At the 2024 Busan World Team Table Tennis Championships, the US men have another opportunity to qualify as a team to the 2024 Paris Olympics. Quarterfinalist teams will qualify to the Olympics. USA Table Tennis congratulates our athletes and wishes them success at the upcoming World Championships.