Westridge's Erica Wu thankful for Olympic experience
Table Tennis: Westridge School 16-year-old thrilled to be part of Team USA and hopes to return to Games in four years.
Erica Wu, a 16-year old Westridge School student, was thrilled to be part of Team USA and hopes to return to Olympic Games in four years. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer / August 7, 2012)
The 16-year-old otherwise beamed at the opportunity to represent the United States in the women’s team table tennis competition, which concluded for her last Friday.
“It was so amazing to be a part of this, not just the tournament, but the Olympics overall,” Wu said from London on Tuesday evening. “To check into the Olympic Village and to be a part of the opening ceremonies, when they said USA was next, we surged out of that tunnel and there were so many athletes. It was amazing.”
Wu was one of two area Olympians to participate in the summer games, along with one-time Pasadena City College standout Edino Steele of the Jamaican track team, and had her parents, Peter Wu and Johan Pao, in the stands.
“It was truly amazing to see Erica out there. It was a definite feeling of pride and excitement and still feels like a dream come true,” said Peter Wu, who was allowed to visit his daughter once during the Games, per IOC regulations. “Even though they lost, you couldn’t be upset. They were the youngest team in the whole tournament.”
Wu paired with fellow 16-year-old Ariel Hsing in the table tennis team competition in Friday’s first round and immediately ran into a brick wall in the form of the top Japanese duo of 19-year-old Kasumi Ishikawa and 23-year-old Ai Fukuhara, who entered ranked sixth and seventh in the world, respectively, according to the International Table Tennis Federation.
By comparison, Wu was ranked No. 448 and Hsing was 115th.
So, it was no surprise the Japanese team came away with an 11-7, 11-7, 11-1 victory that clinched them a 3-0 triumph that simultaneously eliminated Team USA.
“There’s no shame or disappointment in losing to Japan,” Wu said. “They ended up being a finalist and entered the tournament ranked second. We tried our best and did the most we could do.
“I was only disappointed to go up against a team that was that good in the first round. But, this is the Olympics and everyone is great. We tried our best.”
Wu was on hand a week earlier at the individual tournament and witnessed Hsing’s unexpected run, which included a first-round win over Yadira Silva of Mexico and an upset of No. 43 Lian Xia Ni of Luxembourg in the second round.
Hsing was eliminated in the next round by eventual champion Xiaoxia Li of China, 4-2.
“I was impressed. Ariel played extremely well and I remember being so excited when she beat the girl from Luxembourg,” Wu said. “That was amazing.”
In the team tournament, Wu also encountered large, boisterous crowds and the type of attention that’s generally unfamiliar.
“There was just a lot of American supporters and people who came to see us,” Wu said. “I’ve never played in front of so many people.”
Other than seeing the top-ranked players in individual and team table tennis, Wu also stargazed at the Olympic Village.
“Hanging out in the village, you’d see some of the great athletes,” Wu said. “Michael Phelps would walk past you and then you’d turn your head and see the American gymnastics team getting ready in the corner.”
With tournament action over, Wu plans to return home Aug. 9.
“I’m taking a short break from table tennis this week and I’ve already had the opportunity to sight see and even watch Les Misérables at West End,” Wu said. “But when I get back, I’ll get ready for more tournaments.
“This experience has made me want to work harder to get back to the Olympics four years from now. That would be special.”