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Youngest U.S. Olympian is Bay Area table tennis phenom

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SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Five-foot-six, 130 pounds — that’s the size of the youngest U.S. Olympian preparing to make his way to Rio for next month’s games. Kanak Jha is also both the U.S. men’s singles champion and the U.S. men’s youth champion in table tennis and the first American athlete born in the 2000s to qualify for the Olympic Games.

“I don’t think that will matter when I get there,” said Jha, who is a junior at Milpitas High School. “Whoever I play against at the Olympics won’t care how old I am.”

Jha recently participated in a public event at Spin, a pingpong social club in San Francisco owned by actress Susan Sarandon, with the rest of the U.S. team.

“There is a critical mass of clubs in the Bay Area that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the country,” said Gordon Kaye, CEO of USA Table Tennis, based in Colorado Springs. “In Milpitas, there are four really high-level clubs within five miles of each other.”

Jha comes from humble beginnings, his introduction to table tennis came from playing matches against his older sister in their garage. From their, he graduated to the Indian Community Center in Milpitas, and eventually on to the Palo Alto Table Tennis Club. By the time he reached age 10, Jha knew even the table tennis hotbed of Milpitas was too small for his ambitions.

“He’s always been very talented in any sport that involves a ball,” his older sister Prachi said. One of those sports was soccer, his first love. “I quit around 10 years old,” Jha said, “and ever since then, it’s been full-time table tennis.”

His father, Arun Jha, works in the software industry, and had the strength to send his son out on the road at his ripe age. When Jha was 11, he made the junior national team and won the bronze medal at a junior tournament in Austria. He won gold the following year.

At 14, Jha became the youngest ever to qualify in the history of the world championships. During his sophomore year of high school, Jha moved to Sweden, where the days are short and the hours available for indoor table tennis are long. Six or seven hours a day, to be exact, under the best coaching in the world — his older sister was already training there herself, so the two got an apartment across the street from their training facility.

“The level is much more competitive” there, he said. “I improved significantly.”

His goal for this Olympics, he says, is to make it out of the qualifying round. But in four years, he expects to be on the podium. Asked if he is looking forward to marching into the Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremony, he said he might not march in at all.

“The (table tennis) tournament starts the next day,” he said. “I might have to rest for my match.”

Jha uses what’s called a handshake grip, which is the same as the traditional Western grip used by tennis players. He’s never played tennis, though. Never played “beer pong” either, though he is often asked that question.

“I’m not 21 yet,” is his answer.

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4 Indian Americans die, 2 missing in Hurricane Ida floods

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4 Indian Americans die, 2 missing in Hurricane Ida floods | Diya TV News

TRENTON (Diya TV) — At least four Indian Americans are dead and two missing as the massive floods ravaged New York and New Jersey following Hurricane Ida. Authorities say the victims were swept away by flood waters or drowned. Crews are using boats and drones, hoping to find more survivors.

https://youtu.be/0D7s6N2mNFo

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Modi to visit US in late September to meet Biden | Diya TV News

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Census: Indian American population tops 4 million

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Census: Indian American population tops 4 million | Diya TV News

SPRINGFIELD, IL (Diya TV) — Illinois Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi is touting the achievements of Indian Americans and their influence after the latest census data showing tremendous growth in the community. There are now more than four million Indian Americans and they’re considered one of the fastest growing ethnic groups.  Krishnamurthi says this is just the beginning and expects the community to contribute even more to the fabric of America.  

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Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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