As a 17-year-old in 2000, Michelle Do became to youngest athlete to make the U.S. table tennis Olympic team. Now a sophomore at Santa Clara University, Do is continuing to play the sport she loves as she trains for the 2004 Games in Athens.
After a brief stint with the piano, Do began playing table tennis with her brother when she was just 9 years old. “We started off playing in the garage with our dad,” Do says. She and her brother soon started entering tournaments and bringing home trophies.
Do says that while Vietnamese culture does not encourage girls to play sports, she was fortunate that her parents were supportive of her interest in the sport. Most of the Vietnamese players are men, and most of the players in the Bay Area are men, so Do has had to train with and compete against men throughout the years.
Training for two to three hours every day paid off for the young athlete with a ticket to Sydney to compete in women’s doubles at the 2000 Olympics. “I got the chance to learn from the more experienced players, especially my doubles partner, Gao Jun,” Do says.
Although she did not bring home a medal, Do says she felt a sense of pride and success to be at the Olympics, especially during the opening cremony. “I was overwhelmed by the crowd that was cheering as I was walking out onto the track with my fellow Olympians. Making the team was the most rewarding and satisfying time in my life,” she says.
Do says she was also proud that in Sydney, a woman had won the first Olympic medal for Vietnam, in tae kwan do. “This shows that girls can be great in sports and it doesn’t only have to be in ice skating or gymnastics,” she says.
As a combined sciences major hoping to go to medical school in a couple of years, Do still finds time to train, albeit not as much. She still hopes for an Olympic table tennis medal, possibly in singles. Her training sessions last two to three hours four days a week, and she recently represented SCU at the National Collegiate Tournament in Philadelphia, where she won the singles and doubles events. Do is also planning to work with juniors at the City Beach Club in Fremont to help them enjoy the sport as much as she does.
-Erin Ryan ’03