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Arcadia’s Shining Star, Erica Wu

Erica Wu receiving certificate by Mayor Bob Harbicht at June 5 City Council meeting.

In the City of Arcadia, a bright star shines. Her name is Erica Wu. She is fifteen years old and her proud parents are Johan Pao and Sheng Cheng Wu. Erica is going to the summer Olympics, participating in table tennis. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – by Joan Schmidt East Valley Editor, Mountain Views News – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  – – – – –

Our story begins when Erica was seven years old and began to play table tennis for fun. Then, when she reached nine, it became a more serious activity. She has been practicing seven days a week, two hours each day – and that is only the table tennis aspect. She also does physical training each day. Activities include running, jumping jacks, sit-ups, push-ups and weights. You certainly would need to build up strength in your arms to endure the long grueling hours of practice.

I don’t believe the average person has any idea of the longevity of training and practice involved to become an Olympian. Several years ago, I taught Jean Han and she went to the Junior Nationals in Ice-Skating. Not only did she practice skating every day, but there were also gymnastics and even ballet! And Triple Olympian Medalist, El Monte’s own Kim Rhode spoke of her endless hours of practice!

Erica’s parents have supported her so much. They have spent tens of thousands of dollars on equipment, travel and summer training camps in China and Taiwan. About $3000 a month goes to a coach and a live-in partner from China. Erica has worked with one of her Chinese partners at the Gao-Jun Tennis Club in El Monte. It’s a refurbished warehouse with fluorescent lights and posters of Chinese table tennis taped to the walls. Jay Yuan gives Erica tips of her returns. The Club that Erica practices at, is run by Jun Gao. She’s a former Olympian, who has represented both China and the United States in the Olympics. What is surprising is that Gao doesn’t believe that homegrown American Olympians can beat international players who have been training in special school since early childhood.

That kind of rationale doesn’t faze Erica, her parents, trainers, or any of her many fans. Erica just wants to play. “I shout. I smash balls and I have to fight for every point, and so it’s really nice to have that kind of a feeling of ‘ I’m trying to beat you, I know you’re trying to beat me,’ let’s see who wins,” says Erica.

However, there is much more to Erica than table tennis. She excels in academics at Westridge School in Pasadena. It is only fitting that Mayor Bob Harbicht of Arcadia presented Erica with a Special Certificate in recognition of being an Olympian. She has also been the subject of recent stories in the Pasadena Star-News and The Los Angeles Times. Way to go Erica! Arcadia and the entire San Gabriel Valley will be routing for you.


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