Table Tennis Trio Competes Among Country’s Best

Pieke Franssen    Alamedan Aziz Zarehbin (center) won the silver medal in the Under-13 division at the U.S. National Table Tennis tournament last weekend. Ted Li (right) won the gold medal while Aneesh Rashavan (left) won bronze.

Three players with Alameda ties competed in the 2018 U.S. National Youth Table Tennis Tournament in Davie, Fla., March 29 to April 1. 

Kai and Aziz Zarehbin and Avery Chan were among the 79 participants to compete in the inauguralnational youth ranking tournament conducted by USA Table Tennis. 

Kai, 14, and Aziz, 12, are Alameda residents that attend Alameda Community Learning Center and are members of the Alameda Table Tennis Club. Chan is a Piedmont resident, but is also a member of the Alameda Table Tennis Club.

The field was divided by gender and further divided into four age categories: Hopes (10-11), mini cadet (under 13), cadet (under 15) and junior (under 18). The top 16 players in the country in each category were invited to play in the main event, while another eight spaces were up for grabs to anyone who could qualify by playing a single elimination qualification tournament. The 24 players who won a spot in the events were treated to nine tough matches in two days that included the final knockout tournament that determined the final ranking for each player. 

Kai entered the junior division tournament 15th out of 24 players. After going 2-2 in the knockout tournament with wins over Chan and Alexander Wu, he moved up to 10th place. Chan began the junior division in 20th place. He went 1-3, with a victory over Ethan Du, but moved up in the rankings to 16th place.

Chan fared much better in the cadet division. He entered the tournament in 20th place. After an opening-round loss to Jayden Zhou, Chan won three straight matches in the knockout tournament including a revenge win over Kai in the second match. His two other victories were over Henrik Zhang and Wu. Chan finished the cadet division by moving up 14 spots to the six seed out of 24 players. 

Aziz was given the seventh seed entering the cadet tournament. He took down his brother in his first match. He would go on to a 2-2 record in the knockout tournament with the other victory coming against Evan Lai. Aziz maintained his seventh-place ranking at the end of the tournament.

Kai entered the tournament the 13th seed. After losses to Chan and Aziz, he rebounded to beat Aditya Godhwani and Ved Sheth. Kai moved up five spots to the eighth seed.

Aziz entered the mini cadet division ranked second out of the 24 players. He defeated Nandan Haresh in the first match and Aneesh Raghavan in the second match. However, he lost to Ted Li in the battle for first place in the final. Aziz remains in second place. However, Aziz’s second-place finish guarantees him a spot in the Table Tennis USA Team USA for the 2018-2019 season.