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When Kanak Jha was 16, he became the youngest American Olympian to participate at the Rio Games, and the youngest in history — of any nationality — to play Olympic table tennis. Less than a year later, he became the top-ranked United States Men’s table tennis player.


Kanak, a California native, recently moved to Grenzau, Germany, looking to take that next step in his development and training. Far away from home and with few distractions from table tennis, he is striving to perfect his craft and join the ranks of the game’s elite with his sites set on Tokyo 2020.

Fan card of American table tennis Olympian Kanak Jha

Kanak’s relentless, consistent approach to game play means he’s never out of a match. His tenacity was on full display during a semi-final at the 2016 Olympic qualifiers.


Playing in front of a partisan crowd in Toronto against Canadian Pierre-Luc Theriault, Kanak trailed 0-5 in the seventh and deciding game before he reeled off eleven straight points to claim a thrilling victory.

“It seems to me that he tunes everything out. There could be 500 people cheering against him and he is in a different zone. It's pretty remarkable.”

— Arun Jha, Kanak's father on his son's focus


Jha’s resilient spirit was again on full display against fellow Cali phenom Nikhil Kumar, as the two battled back in forth in a thrilling final at the 2017 US National Team Trials. Jha prevailed after falling behind two games to one, 11-8, 8-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-13, 11-9, 11-8.


Kanak started playing table tennis at the age of 5, after watching his older sister Prachi play at a local recreation center. Today, as a top-20 ranked player in the United States, Prachi can still provide Kanak with some stiff competition.

Before Kanak’s move to Germany, the siblings lived together in Sweden for a time where their skills were elevated by club play.

Both Jhas employ the shake-hand grip, and their paddle of choice is the Butterfly Timo Boll ALC with Tenergy rubbers applied on both faces if the blade.