Warren Buffett and Bill Gates will be thrilled when they get the news — 16-year-old Ariel Hsing of the US is into the second round in the Olympic table tennis tournament, defeating Yadira Silva of Mexico in four straight games on Saturday’s opening day of play.
With none of the top 16 players and the favored Chinese entering competition until the third round, Hsing made the most of her first Olympic appearance.
Buffett met Hsing when she was only nine 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 US team, taking 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 cannot make it and has passed on a good-luck wish.
As a young player from a non-traditional table tennis country, Hsing knows she will 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 second-seeded Li Xiaoxia of China.
“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 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 immigrated 25 years ago, waving the US flag. She said her father Michael, who was was born in Taiwan, prepared her racket — as his usual custom.
“I felt so proud to be an American,” she said.
Two of Hsing’s US 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.”
Taiwan’s two representatives managed to overcome the nerves to register second-round victories.
Chen Szu-yu defeated Krisztina Toth of Hungary 4-3, while Huang Yi-hua beat Miao Miao of Australia 4-0.
China have won 20 of 24 gold medals since table tennis entered the Games in 1988 and most expect them to win all four gold medals this time — two in the singles and two for the teams.
China’s influence is everywhere.
Some players at the Olympics, such as Hsing, Zhang and Wang, were born in their native countries to parents from China or Taiwan.
Others were born in China and immigrated to play elsewhere — in spots from Australia to the Republic of Congo, Spain to France.
“Table tennis is a big sport in China, but there is a limited chance to play for the country,” said Miao, who was born in China.