16-year-old Table Tennis sensation Ariel Hsing yesterday put on a show for her friend, Bill Gates, whom she calls "Uncle Bill". After making her Olympics debut by winning the first two matches, the young player just narrowly lost the third one to China’s Li Xiaoxia.
With Gates sitting in the bleachers and cheering Hsing, the young table tennis star nearly upset her 24-year-old opponent to the extreme before losing the best-of-seven match in six close games 11-4, 9-11, 11-6, 6-11, 11-8, 11-9. “Nothing short of phenomenal,” Gates said praising as he posed for photos with the athlete.
"This was my third match and I just really went for it. I really wanted this match. I learned I just need to go for my shots," Hsing told ESPN in a post-match interview. "If I just let go and play the way I should play, them I'm pretty close with her [Li].”
Gates and Hsing got to know each other via fellow billionaire, Warren Buffet, who met her at his 75th birthday party when she was only 9. Years later, he invited her at a shareholders meeting of Berkshire Hathaway to demonstrate her skills.
Hsing, who has played three strong matches in two days, shot to instant fame due to her friendship with Gates and Buffet. U.S women’s team coach, Doru Gheorghe, was also impressed by her performance.
“That proves that she can make it to the highest level internationally," Gheorghe said, hinting that the San Jose, California, high school student might need to travel and practice some more - which means missing a few more classes at school.
The talented young star’s table tennis career hinges on a fine thread after making a precarious deal with her parents - if her grades go below straight As, she will no longer be pursuing the sport. The high school senior will soon find herself on crossroads between choosing to attend college immediately after high school or postponing the decision to focus more fully on her athletic career and the possibility of participating in the 2016 Olympics.
Hsing has inherited some of her love and talent for the game from her parents, who immigrated and settled in the U.S. nearly 20 years ago. Her father is from Taiwan and mother is from China, the country that has beaten all records in the sport, winning 20 out of 24 gold medals since it was first introduced to the Olympics in 1988.