Every U.S. Olympian since 1996 has been age 15 or older. That may change this year.
Crystal Wang, a 13-year-old table tennis player, will be one of four U.S. women seeking one possible Olympic berth in a North American Olympic qualifier in Markham, Ontario, from April 8-10.
Wang, who was born Feb. 23, 2002, was the fourth and final U.S. woman to advance to the North American qualifier at the Olympic table tennis trials last week.
She joins 2015 U.S. champion Jiaqi Zheng and fellow Olympic trials winners Chen Wang (a 42-year-old 2008 Olympic quarterfinalist) and Lily Zhang (2012 Olympian) on the North American qualifier team.
A nation may qualify no more than two individual table tennis players per gender for an Olympics. Jennifer Wu took one of those U.S. spots by winning the 2015 Pan American Games.
If Wang is the top U.S. finisher in Markham in April (and first or second overall), she will become the youngest U.S. Olympian since 1976, according to sports-reference.com.
It will be challenging for Wang to beat her countrywomen, let alone the host Canadians, the only other nation competing.
Wang lost in the quarterfinals on the first two days of the U.S. Olympic trials last week before prevailing on the last day against a field that didn’t include any of the other three women who had already clinched spots in the North American qualifier.
The other three Americans are ranked between Nos. 89 and 146 by the International Table Tennis Federation. Wang is ranked No. 189. Canada has a player ranked No. 113.
If Wang doesn’t make it, then Sharon Alguetti, who turns 15 on May 14, could become the youngest U.S. Olympian since Michael Phelps in 2000.
He will be one of four U.S. men seeking a possible two individual Olympic berths in the North American Olympic qualifier from April 8-10.
Alguetti’s Olympic chances may be greater than Wang’s since there is one more men’s berth at stake (the 2015 Pan Am Games champion was a Brazilian), and he was the third of four U.S. men to qualify for the North American event.
Alguetti joins 2015 U.S. champion Yijun Feng and Olympic trials winners Timothy Wang (2012 Olympian) and Kanak Jha.
Alguetti lost to Wang at the Olympic trials before beating Jha.
No American men are ranked in the world top 300. Jha is No. 302. Alguetti is No. 549. Canada’s best player is ranked No. 63.
The U.S. Olympic table tennis team will increase in size in May if it is the top-ranked North American team in men’s or women’s International Table Tennis Federation rankings. If so, it will send three players to Rio in the respective gender(s), adding its top finishers from the April tournament.