Ariel Hsing moves on in table tennis

Updated: July 28, 2012, 1:36 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- Warren Buffett and Bill Gates will be thrilled when they get the news: 16-year-old American Ariel Hsing is into the second round in Olympic table tennis.

She defeated Yadira Silva of Mexico in four straight games on Saturday's opening day of play. With none of the top 16 players and favored Chinese entering competition until the third round, Hsing made the most of her first Olympic appearance.

Buffett met Hsing when she was only 9 and two years later invited her to play against shareholders at Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting. She returned earlier this year after winning a spot on the U.S. team and took a few points off Buffett and Gates.

"I know Uncle Bill is going to come to London to watch," said Hsing, who also calls Buffett "Uncle Warren."

Rumors have been swirling around the table tennis venue about a visit from Gates. Buffett had said he can't make it and has passed on a good-luck wish.

As a young player from a nontraditional table tennis country, Hsing knows she'll be a huge underdog in the second round when she faces China-born Ni Xia Lian, a several-time European champion who plays for Luxembourg.

A victory would put her into the third round against No. 2 seeded Li Xiaoxia of China. She is favored with No. 1 Ding Ning to reach the gold-medal game.

"Of course, you have to aim for a medal, you have to," the Californian said. "So even if I have a 1 percent chance, I'm still going to put in 100 percent effort. ... You just go for it."

Almost everyone on Saturday -- mostly first-time Olympians -- said they were nervous playing before 4,000 fans, perhaps 20 or 30 times more than most pingpong tournaments draw.

So was Hsing, who forgot to write a little message on her left forearm. She had planned to write "Let Go" as a reminder to relax and play, but said she forgot in the "hustle and bustle" beforehand.

"I just told myself to calm down because I knew the crowd was going to be wild," she said. "I knew everything was going to be completely different with so much pressure."

Hsing said she choked up when she saw her mother, Xin Jiang -- who was born in China and emigrated 25 years ago -- waving the U.S. flag. She said her father Michael, who was was born in Taiwan, prepared her racket as is his custom.

"I felt so proud to be an American," she said.

Two of Hsing's American teammates were knocked out on Monday. Tim Wang and Lily Zhang both lost in four games in their first Olympics, and both had the jitters.

"I walked out and as soon as everyone started cheering, I started to get goose bumps," Wang said. "My legs were shaking while I was playing. The nerves definitely kicked in."

China has won 20 of 24 gold medals since table tennis entered the games in 1988, and most expect China to win all four gold medals this time -- two in singles and two in team.

China's influence is everywhere.

Some players at the Olympics -- like Hsing, Zhang and Wang -- were born in their native countries to parents from China or Taiwan.

Others were born in China and left the country to play elsewhere -- from Australia to the Republic of Congo, from Spain to France.

"Table tennis is a big sport in China, but there is a limited chance to play for the country," said Miao Miao, who was born in China and has played for Poland and now Australia. This is her fourth Olympics.

Han Xing plays for the Republic of Congo.

"Being in China, there would be no way for me to play in worldwide competitions like this. There are too many great Chinese players."

They'll be in action soon.


Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press