Wei Wang

1961: Wei Wang is born Mar. 21, 1961.

1972: Wei starts playing seriously at age 11 with the help of Wang Jien (1961 World women’s semifinalist to Giu Zhonghui). Said her aunt, “Wei, I know you like to dance, but forget the Dance Group, get into table tennis,” and convinces her to play shakehands.

1974: Favoring a fast-attack game, Wei, at age 13, on being admitted to the Beijing Team, is the only girl on it playing shakehands.

1979-82: By 1979 Wei is #5 in China. But through her years of professional play is never chosen for the National Team.

1983-85: Wei retires as a professional and begins attending large classes (with many adult students) held by teachers at certain selected spots. That is, it’s not what those in the U.S. think of as a university—there’s no campus with dorms and students moving from classroom to classroom. Wei, interested in Chinese Literature, graduates in 1985.

1986: Wei immigrates to the U.S., and settles in California. She knows little English, so adapting to the different culture is difficult. If she can both play and coach, this will help her adjust. She feels that if she doesn’t play, her coaching level will drop too. She doesn’t want to be fixed, stopped in her thinking; if she plays, sees others play, she keeps up with anything new going on—and there’s always something new going on.

 1987: The USATT magazine, Table Tennis Topics, first mentions Wei when she plays in the May, 1987 West Covina, CA Open. She’s reported to be a friend of China’s 1979 and ’81 World Women’s Doubles Champion Zhang Deying who at the time was coaching in California. At this West Covina Open, Wei wins the Women’s Singles easily, but is beaten in the semi’s of the Open by the eventual winner, Najib Yakub, said to be the former Champion of Afghanistan. (In China Wei never played seriously against men, would have been beaten under 10, she said.)

1988: On Mar. 24, at the Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Wei wins two singles and the doubles with U-22 U.S. Champion Lan Vuong—thus enabling the “U.S.” to defeat a visiting Japanese Team managed by 1967 U.S. Open Champion Manji Fukushima.

At the Nittaku Open, held Apr. 22-24 in San Diego’s Federal Building Sports Center at Balboa Park, Wei beats Lan, 18 in the 4th, to win the Women’s.

In May, Wei plays in the Kiwanis Cup Open at Monterey Park, CA, and though losing to multi-time U.S. Champion Insook Bhushan, she splits matches with Lan. The two team together in Women’s Doubles, but are beaten –13, 19, 11 by Bhushan and Sonja Solomun, a good player from Yugoslavia.

At the Pacific Rim International in Alhambra, CA, teams from the People’s Republic of China, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines attend. As Diego Schaaf, Wei’s husband-to-be, notes in his write-up of the tournament, thanks are due to sponsor/host, Dr. Jiing Wang, President of the San Gabriel Valley TTC, “whose love for the sport motivated him in spite of the great organizational task and the substantial expenses involved.” The U.S. Women’s Team members are 1984 U.S. Champion Julie Ou, Wei, and Lan. They finish 3rd behind teams from China and Japan (Chinese Taipei is 4th). Wei, showing a “quick forehand…[,] stinging backhand,” is 3rd in Singles behind China’s winner Chen Zihe (from whom in the Team’s she took a game).

In July, Wei wins the Las Vegas North American Invitational over Lan.

The Aug., 1988 issue of Topics contains Wei’s first “Coaching Tips” for the magazine—an article on “The art of returning serves”—and the first photo of her (a small head shot that would thereafter accompany her “Tips”). Some articles that follow are: “Ready position and forehand”; “Good players must know how to loop”; “Let’s look at your backhand”; and “The Serve: Pace, Placement and Sequence Strategy.”

1989: The Top 3 in Jan.-Feb. U.S. Women’s Ratings are: Bhushan: 2401; Lily Hugh: 2361; and Wei: 2352. In a Feb. Pittsburgh tournament, Wei upsets Insook.

At the Aug. $8,000 North American Championships, Wei loses an 11-9 in the 5th horror to Barbara Chen, a former Canton Province player who was the Canadian #1 at the 1989 Dortmund World’s and is about to be their 1990 Closed Champion. (Yes, that’s right, Wei lost 11-9 in the 5th. Thirteen years ago, these Championships were played with 11-point games).

1990: Wei beats Tawny Banh to win the Women’s at the Apr. West Covina Spring Open.

Wei loses to Julie Ou in the final of the May 26-27 Golden State Open.

By now U.S. National Coach Wei’s video instruction tape is being circulated. She’ll collaborate with 5-time U.S. Champion Sean O’Neill to produce Table Tennis 101 and later 102 instruction videos.

WEI WINS the U.S. CLOSED SINGLES over then 10-time U.S. Champ Insook Bhushan. That year, round-robin play among 12 women decided the winner.Wei’s record is 10-1. She has a loss to Julie Oh, who finishes 5th, but she beats Insook. Since both Wei and Insook have just the one loss, Wei wins the title via a head-to-head tie-breaker.     

1991: At the World’s, in a Corbillon Cup match, Wei beats Bulgaria’s Daniela Guerguelcheva, the 1990 European Champion. In Mixed Doubles, Wei and Eric Boggan reach the round of 32, lose 2-1 to France’s Damien Eloi/Sandrine Derrien.

In Oct., at the North American Championships, against Canada’s Diana Huang, Wei loses a tough final—this after winning three straight. Strangely, the match is not the normal 3 out of 5 but best of 7, and Wei then drops four straight. But at these Championships all is not lost. The U.S. team of Wei, Li Ai, and Lily Hugh defeat the eligible Canadians, Julie Barton and Helene Bedard, and so can play in the World Team Cup in Barcelona in Nov. Later, after playing in this Cup, Wei will stay on for a couple of days to talk to players, trainers, and coaches. “If I learn,” she said, “many people will benefit,” alluding of course to her role as sought-after National Coach. In keeping with modern-day technique, she believes in teaching her pupils to immediately learn how to loop.

Wei wins Nov. Pacific Rim in Portland, OR—beats Lan in final.

At the U.S. Closed, Wei rallies to beat Lily, then, though cheered on by husband Diego, loses the final to Insook, who wins her 11th and last National Singles Championship—likely an enduring record. A strange and painful 21-15 in the 5th loss for Wei, for she’d been up 14-9. Ah, well—move on.

1992: In the Mar.-Apr. issue of Topics readers note both Wei’s “A Newer, Faster Way To Learn,” and the Interview with her.

At the Mar. Accurate Tax Chinese New Year Championships in Costa Mesa, Insook beats Wei in the Women’s final, 23-21 in the 4th. Wei, down 2-1, eliminates Lily in 5 in the semi’s.

At the Apr., 1992 North American Championships in St. Hyacinth, Canada, Wei and partner Lily qualify for the World Cup Doubles, which makes them each, come Dec., $1,000 richer.

Hard to take losses for Wei at the U.S. Open. Against a Chinese Taipei team, Wei loses her two singles—deuce in the 3rd, and 19 in the 3rd—and the doubles with Insook, deuce in the 3rd. In Singles, Wei loses to England’s Alison Gordon who will go on to knock out another Chinese immigrant, Amy Feng, who’s about to dominate women’s play in the U.S.

That summer Wei and others are honored during Asian Pacific Heritage Month.

In Dec., in the quarter’s of the Vegas National’s, Wei loses deuce in the 5th to Diana Gee. However, she wins the U.S. CLOSED DOUBLES with Lily over Feng/Gee,  and she makes the U.S. Team to the Gothenberg World’s.

1993: At the Feb. Chinese New Year Open, Wei loses to Amy Feng in Women’s and Women’s All-Star matches.

In June, 1993 Wei becomes a U.S. citizen. Diego and Wei, working together, initiate for the USATT magazine a standard feature: selected photo sequences of top world-class players and an accompanying analysis of their strokes. In the next 10 years we’ll be treated to such diverse topics as The Forehand Flip of Jean-Michel Saive, The Inside-Out Forehand Loop of Jan-Ove Waldner, The Step-Around Footwork of Kong Linghui, the Backhand to Forehand Transition of Zoran Primorac, The Forehand Serve of Ma Wenge, and many more.

By fall, Wei has been coaching more and playing less. But she’s on the winning Women’s Team at the Detroit Team Championships.

At the Vegas National’s, Wei loses in the semi’s of the Singles to Lily. But at the U.S. Team Trials, she comes 2nd to Amy Feng. In Women’s Doubles, Wei and Anita Zakharyan are runner-ups to Amy and Lily.

1994: By now Anita and Wei have done a video shoot for the French band “Air.” 

At the May North American Championships, Wei wins the deciding match from Canadian Petra Cada to give the U.S. women a 3-2 victory over Canada and make them eligible for the World Team Cup in Nimes, France. Wei favors team play, leagues—says with George Brathwaite it’s the way to go. Also says, as Dick Miles has for years, that the USATT should build a prototype club or clubs.

In Oct. at Houston, Wei makes the Pan-Am Team.

At the National’s Wei beats Virginia Sung before losing in the semi’s to Amy. In both Doubles—the Women’s with Tawny and the Mixed with Danny Seemiller—she’s the runner-up. Worse, she doesn’t qualify for the ‘95 World’s—a disappointment. However, she’ll be in Tianjin with Diego supporting the players. “I never remember the bad things,” she says, “but I remember the good. My husband is that way too, so it seems that we are always happy.”

1995: Playing in the Jan., 1995 ENGLISH OPEN as a warm-up for the Pan-Am Games, Wei, playing with a pick-up Austrian partner against world-class opponents, is the WOMEN’S DOUBLES RUNNER-UP—quite an achievement.

Returning home to play in the Feb. Chinese New Year’s Open, Wei (“meticulously picking which loaded chop to loop, push, or smash”) beats Lily and Virginia.

At the Mar. Pan-Am Games in Mar del Plata, Argentina, Wei and Tawny win a Bronze in Doubles.

In Larry Hodges’ “Who’s the Greatest U.S. Player Pound for Pound” article of the day—the assessment being based on a rating-points-per-pound percentage—52-pound Han Xiao’s 1551 rating beats out 92-pound Wei’s 2372 rating. If she wants to be 1st, Wei has to lose weight? Diego advises against it—Han, he says, will gain rating points faster than pounds.

At the National’s, Wei and Lily for the second time are U.S. DOUBLES CHAMPIONS.

1996-: At the Feb. Flint, MI U.S. Olympic Trials, Wei finishes 3rd behind Lily and Amy. So when later at Edmonton Virginia fails to qualify for Doubles, Wei is able to partner Lily in Atlanta. Her official Olympic Athlete biography (where do they get their info?) says she plays penholder and has won back-to-back U.S. Championships.

After Wei trains in Beijing, she and Lily beat the Netherlands team of Vriesekoop/Noor, then lose to Russia’s strong defensive pair, Palina/Timina. The Olympic Games prove a climax for Wei, whose last published rating is 2374.

For a time Wei’s something of a celebrity. Guests, for example, with Scott Preiss on “The Donny and Marie [Osmond] Show” at the Sony Studio in Los Angeles.

Invited in 1998 to attend an all-expenses-paid Coaches Symposium in Colorado, she accepts. Thereafter she concentrates solely on coaching, always trying to find the best way to teach, the best way to improve her students’ play.