Competition begins Saturday

ATHENS, Greece -- American Gao Jun faces a possible matchup
with Japanese teenage prodigy Ai Fukuhara in the Olympic table
tennis competition according to the draw announced Thursday.

Gao, seeded 10th in women's singles, represents the United
States' best hope for a first medal in table tennis. She will
receive a bye until the third round, where she could face Fukuhara,
who will get a bye until the second round.

Fukuhara was 3 years old in 1992, when Gao won a silver medal
for China in women's doubles.

The Olympic table tennis competition begins Saturday. There are
64 competitors in both the men's and women's singles events. The
bottom 32 seeds will play first-round matches, with the winners
advancing to meet seeds 17-32 in the second round. The top 16 seeds
receive byes until the third round.

If Gao wins her third-round match, she would likely play
fourth-seeded Kim Kyung-ah of South Korea in the round of 16.

The rest of the American singles players found out their
first-round opponents Thursday. In the women's bracket, Jasna Reed
will play Renata Strbikova of the Czech Republic, and Tawny Banh
will face Yoon Ji-hye of South Korea. In men's singles, American
Ilija Lupulesku will face Juan Papic of Chile. Khoa Nguyen will
meet William Henzell of Australia.

In men's doubles, Lupulesku and Mark Hazinski will play Monday
Merotohun and Segun Toriola of Nigeria. In women's doubles, Reed
and Whitney Ping will face Tan Paey Fern and Zhang Xueling of
Singapore. Gao and Banh will play the winner of a match between
Chile's Berta Rodriguez and Maria Paulina Vega and Venezuela's
Luisana Perez and Fabiola Ramos.