May 2, 2012, 12:15 PM EST
This may sound like someone hacked a Wikipedia page with random, made-up facts, but I assure you it’s real: Warren Buffet loves ping pong, and discovered a California ping pong prodigy when she was nine years old. And now at age 16 she’s going to the Olympics. Buffet invited Ariel Hsing to the annual Berkshires shareholders meeting in Omaha when she was 11, where he set her ping pong skills against a number of businessmen, among them ping pong enthusiast Bill Gates. Hsing trounced all of them. Now at age 16 she’s the top-ranked under-18 player in the nation (No. 2 overall) and has won a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
A high-school junior, Ariel has maintained stellar grades while pursuing a spot in the Olympics, a dream she shares with many, including the Omaha admirer whom she calls “Uncle Warren.” In a note to her last September, Buffett wrote, “I will come watch you in the Olympics—whether 2012 or 2016.”
On April 20, Ariel won an Olympic qualifying tournament and a spot on the U.S. team. But even so, Olympic success isn’t her priority. She’s preparing to take the SAT in June, with hopes ultimately of winning admittance to Stanford. “Right now it’s SAT (preparation), then it’s table tennis,” says Ariel. U.S. table-tennis coach Doru Gheorghe says academics can be a barrier to U.S. Olympic success. With a laugh, he says, “all our top players are very smart too.”
For Ariel, in fact, making the Olympic team doesn’t necessarily rank above becoming friends with Buffett and Gates. She says their influence has inspired her to switch career plans from medicine to business. “The luckiest moment of my life,” she says, “was meeting Uncle Warren and Uncle Bill.”
Photo: Associated Press.
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