I’m working on a series of Olympic features about athletes from the Washington, D.C.-area. So far, I’ve written about McLean, Va. rowers Sam Stitt and Giuseppe Lanzone; Centreville, Va. field hockey player Claire Laubach and Germantown, Md. ping-pong player Han Xiao.
Each athlete has a really interesting story to tell about his or her career and what got them to the point where they might be able to compete in the Olympics. The clear story, however, is persistence. The rowers seemed to have every advantage, beginning from the time the met a coach with lofty goals in high school.
Laubach, who was a great athlete in multiple sports, was just following the prescribed path and having tremendous success until she was cut from the USA Senior National team just before the Beijing Games. Learning an important skill turned her career around, and now she’s one of the key members of the team that’s already qualified for the Games more than six months early.
And Xiao, the son of a Chinese immigrant who learned ping-pong in his basement, tore after the game with a remarkable tenacity. However, he may be a stronger player today at 25 than he was when he was racking up national titles as a prodigy a decade ago.