Eugene Wang wasn’t able to compete for a singles berth in ? the Olympics since his citizenship papers didn’t arrive prior to the North American qualifier, but he was chosen for? the team competition once ?he later did receive ?his passport. File photo
By Dan Plouffe
Name: Eugene Wang
Sport: Table tennis
Event: Men’s team
Associations: National team training centre
Previous Olympics: First
Eugene Wang’s Olympic hopes were crushed. And it wasn’t a defeat to a top opponent or an untimely injury that caused it. Clearly the best player in North America based on world rankings, Wang was the favourite heading into the continental Olympic qualifier, but there was one missing piece of paper preventing him from competing – his Canadian citizenship.
The Chinese-born player who took up table tennis at age 7 had received promising news that his application would be processed before the April tournament, so when it didn’t come through in time, Wang resigned himself to waiting four years for his shot at the Games.
“I really didn’t have any hope on this,” Wang recalls. “I’d already kind of given up.”
But behind the scenes, the Canadian Olympic Committee kept pushing until he got a phone call on May 31 telling him to be at a citizenship ceremony the next day.
“I didn’t really have time to think about it, it was just so sudden,” the 26-year-old describes. “Once I was there, I realized I could go to the Olympics.”
Although Wang missed his chance to qualify for the singles competition, Canadians Pierre-Luc Hinse and Andre Ho of Richmond, BC had earned a team berth for London, and there was conveniently one more place to be filled.
Instead of an uneventful return to practice for the distant future national team training centre near Gladstone Ave. and Booth St., Wang was suddenly being invited to 24 Sussex Dr. instead to meet the Prime Minister, which he also did in London for the official opening of Canada House.
“He’s a very nice guy and a very cool guy,” Wang smiles.
It’ll be a tough haul for the Canadians in London as one of the lowest-ranked teams out of 16, but the recent U.S. Open champion would like to get some good matches in and hope for the best.
Wang, who made an appearance in the world rankings top-100 earlier this year after reaching the Slovenian Open quarter-final, first came to Canada in 2004, and moved to Ottawa to train in 2006. Wang has represented Canada in competition for four years, but he needed that long-awaited passport to compete in the Olympics.
“It’s not anything new for me,” Wang adds, “but the Olympics is obviously a different thing, so I’m obviously very excited for this moment.”
Table tennis competition schedule
Men’s singles – July 28-Aug. 2
Women’s singles – July 28-Aug. 1
Men’s team – Aug. 3-8
See london2012.com for more detailed info.