Hugh outlasts Landers in table tennis trials

BY DAN FRIEDELL - Correspondent

CARY The basketball goals at either end of the gym inside the Bond Park Community Center provide a good framework for the action going on this weekend at the U.S. Olympic Table Tennis Trials event in Cary.

While a colored playing surface has been layered over the parquet and three tables have been placed side-by-side in each gym, it's still easy to appreciate the amount of ground covered by players such as Adam Hugh and Michael Landers in their seven-game marathon Saturday afternoon.

"Both of us were running around the whole court, barrier to barrier," said the 24-year-old Hugh of New Jersey. "If they give us more room, we're using it."

Landers, 18, of Long Island, N.Y., came back from a 3-1 deficit before Hugh rallied for a 4-3 victory that moved him to 6-1 in the 11-match tournament concluding today.


"Michael played well. He dominated in the sixth game after he took the fifth," said a panting Hugh, who reeled off six wins after an opening round loss Friday morning. "I really got lucky at the end, I got a couple nets and edges, that ended up being the difference."

While Hugh has never lost to the up-and-coming Landers, winning 11-8 in the seventh game was typical of their recent matches.

"For me to still be able to compete against the young guys like this, it's really great," said Hugh, who trains at his mother's table tennis club with his 22-year-old sister, Judy, who was seeded fourth in the women's event and closed Saturday at 5-3.

At an event as intense as these Olympic trials, Hugh said he appreciates the family support.

"I get to cheer for her in her matches, she gets to cheer for me in my matches," he said. "We've both got each other's backs. It's always been me and my sister."

After seven matches, Hugh found himself tied with current national champ Peter Li, of Maryland, with six wins. But he knows the toughest matches are ahead: he faces Yiyong Fan, Han Xiao and Timothy Wang, the first-, fifth- and fourth seeds, on Sunday.

Table tennis experts say seven wins might be enough to make the final four via a tiebreaker, but eight would provide a safer margin.

"This whole tournament has had upsets here and there, and anyone can beat anybody," said Hugh. "I can't look ahead, I've got to take it one at a time."

Another player riding a win streak is three-time Olympian Gao Jun, 42, who defeated Heather Wang, 4-0, to carry a perfect 8-0 record into Sunday. The wins should provide her a cushion in case an achy right elbow hampers her play today.