Three of the four table tennis players headed to London with the U.S. Olympic team this summer train at the India Community Center in Milpitas.
For coach Rajul Sheth, 41, the table tennis center’s director, it’s all part of the plan. This year they compete; In 2016, they win medals against players from China, who now dominate the winners’ podium.
By qualifying more than one player to this year’s Olympics, “We exceeded our goal,” Sheth said. “We’re in the pipeline.”
Milpitas players Lily Zhang, 15, of Palo Alto; Ariel Hsing, 16, of San Jose; and Timothy Wang, 20, of Houston, all are packing their bags to cross the pond.
Making the Olympic team “has been my dream for so long,” Hsing said. “I don’t know how to feel.”
Meanwhile, the ICC Table Tennis Center is becoming one of the first American clubs to take on international teams and beat them.
The ICC Table Tennis Center began with 10 kids and five tables in 2005. It grew to 12 tables and almost 60 kids in 2007, and 100 kids and 22 tables at its current Milpitas Drive home in 2008. Membership numbers 165. The center draws kids from the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.
As the number of students grew, Sheth began adding coaches. Now his staff includes one trainer from Italy, three from India and three from China, all to teach students the strategies employed by players around the world.
“Different game style, different country,” Sheth said.
Zhang, Hsing and Wang all said they were encouraged by their parents, who played table tennis growing up in China.
“When I was young, my whole family played,” Wang said.
Zhang and Hsing said they got into the sport by tagging along as youngsters when their parents played socially.
Sheth, a former member of the Indian national team, said he hopes for all three to place in the top 32 this year. In 2016, he said, an ICC student should medal.
“They’re still really young,” Sheth said, of his Olympic competitors.
Meanwhile, all three have ideas of what they’d like to do in London when they’re not at the tables.
For Zhang, it might be catching up with Palo Alto High classmates who she expects to qualify in swimming. It could include meeting their teammate, U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps, too.
“I hope so,” Zhang said of Phelps, with a smile. “I really hope so.”