Lily Zhang’s Mom Discusses Lily’s Career and Upbringing

Lily Zhang’s mother recently conducted an interview with Chinese media. We provide a translation below.

Who gave Lily her Chinese name [Zhang An]? Is she named after Xi’An [the city that Lily’s parents are from]?

Lily was born in the United States, but we didn’t want her to forget China or Xi’An, so we added “An” to her name. Her English name is Lily Ann Zhang, which also contains “An.” This word also has special meaning to us.

Does Lily go to Xi’An a lot?

When she was small we used to send her to Xi’An for summer vacation every year. Now that she’s grown up, sometimes when she goes to China for table tennis training, she will go to Xi’An afterwards. She likes Xi’An very much.

Does Lily like Shanxi food?

Lily has a “Shanxi stomach”. She likes soup noodles the most, especially our minced meat noodles from Shaanxi. At home, she will often let me cook for her, and she can eat a large bowl every time.

I heat that Lily speaks Mandarin very well, can she speak the Shaanxi dialect?

Lily’s father and I worked in Xi’an and then went to the United States. Lily was also born in the United States. However, we all speak Mandarin at home, so she can also speak Mandarin. Her father and I sometimes also communicate in Shaanxi dialect at home. Lily only learned a few sentences at most. She can’t really speak but can understand.

It is reported that you are a professional table tennis player. Is Zhang An like playing table tennis because of your influence?

I am not a professional table tennis player, and I don’t know where those rumors come from. Lily’s father and I are both amateurs and both like to play table tennis. Her father used to be on the school team. Her father and I would often go to play, and she would be next to the table, so maybe that influenced her.

When did you discover that Lily has a talent for table tennis?

Actually, we didn’t think she was talented. She has liked sports since she was a child. At that time, there was a little girl from Shanghai in her class. The little girl’s father liked to play ping pong and wanted to train his daughter to learn table tennis. Lily was very good friends with his daughter and often played together, so he also took Lily to learn table tennis together.

I heard that Zhang An also learned table tennis in Xi’an?

When Lilt was 7 years old, she learned from the former Shanxi Provincial team player Gu Minhui for a period of time. My family lives near Chang’an University, next to Xi’an Conservatory of Music and Shaanxi Provincial Stadium. In that summer vacation, we had two choices, going to Xi’an Conservatory of Music to learn violin or going to Shaanxi Provincial Stadium to learn table tennis. She wanted to choose one of the two that she was more interested in. After learning the violin for a while, she found that she still likes table tennis, so she concentrated on learning table tennis from Coach Gu.

She started playing table tennis at the age of 7, and then began to participate in the club. At the age of 10 she made the US Cadet Team (under 15 years old), at the age of 11 she made the US Junior National Team, and at the age of 12 she made the U.S. Women’s National Team. How did Lily do it?

At that time, Lily was learning table tennis from that little girl’s father, and he took them to the club to try it out. As soon as the coach saw that she liked it, he asked her to train in the club. We didn’t want her to join the US team at the beginning. We didn’t have such a high goal, it was the coach’s insistence. For example, at the beginning, she only played once a week, and the coach later asked her to play twice or three times. The coach gave her more training and then asked her to participate in some local tournaments. The more she played the better she got, so naturally we went to the national tournaments, and the results came out slowly.

While playing table tennis, Lily also got a degree in psychology at UC Berkeley no?

Many kids who play in the United States basically give up playing when they go to college. But Lily really likes table tennis, so after she went to college, she still made effort to play. It’s just a little bit less training. Before she trained three times a week. After going to school she played once a week.

The US national team is remade from scratch every year and disbanded after the international tournament. If there happens to be a competition abroad at the time of the final exam, she will take the exam at the hotel. Professors here in the United States allow, as long as there is a personal proctor to take the final exam. Lily’s exams in hotels are usually proctored by coaches. Originally, college should take four years. Zhang An went to college while playing table tennis, and graduated in three and a half years.

Why did Lily choose to major in psychology?

Learning psychology is very helpful for her to play table tennis, and it helps to adjust her mental state during the game. If you understand psychology, you can adjust your state when you encounter problems or difficulties.

In addition to playing table tennis, what other hobbies does Zhang An usually have?

Lily usually likes to read, play the violin, and listen to music. Now she also works part-time while playing. The US national team athletes are self-funded and pay for their own coaching, and the funds have to come from the individuals and their families. Without the national team’s salary, Zhang An sometimes has to work part-time to make money while playing.

Who is Lily’s favorite player?

Lily admired Zhang Yining the most when she was a child. She often watched her games. When she was eight or nine years old, she took photos with Zhang Yining. She always most hoped to cooperate with the Chinese team members, and this time she got her wish [by playing mixed doubles with Lin Gaoyuan].

Did Lily talk to you about her playing condition at the World Table Tennis Championships?

Lily went to South America to play the Pan-American games before, and just returned from Peru last week [this interview appears to have been conducted right before the start of the tournament]. After coming back, she didn’t feel too well. At first, she was worried about whether she caught COVID. Now every day she tests negative, and just has some coughing. She is playing with some illness and is not in very good condition. Nowadays, we are very worried that she will be holding back the Chinese team [in mixed doubles], so she also tries her best to play her best.

What are your expectations for Lily’s future?

Her father and I have always hoped that she will stop playing table tennis. The next step is to systematically find a stable job. But the main thing depends on her own decision. She feels that she is in a good state, and she wants to keep playing. As parents, we will also support her.

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