Ariel Hsing Talks Olympics Success with ADPP 28/8/12

ADPP was as captivated by Ariel’s performance at this years Olympics, as I think we all were. The 16 year old showed real grit and determination, well beyond her years, to take 2 sets off #2 seed and eventual gold medalist Li Xiaoxia of China. Ariel Hsing is a name that I do not see fading away from the sport and the wonderkid has high hopes for Rio 2016, can she challenge for a medal? We were lucky enough to get an interview with Ariel, one of the first since the games, and we get a great insight into her pre-Olympics training, the media storm after and what her future plans are.

Hi Ariel, thank you so much for taking the time to speak to AfterDark PingPong! Now before we talk about your Olympic performance, how have you found the whole experience of representing your country at the highest possible level?
“It was absolutely incredible! Being at the highest stage of sport with so many amazing athletes was an experience that I will always cherish. I loved representing my country, and I felt so proud wearing my USA jacket!”

Going straight into the most important talking point of all, your match against Li Xiaoxia. Do you see that as your best performance to date?
“I think it was. There’s so much pressure at the Olympics, so I certainly did not expect to play that well! But I think a pivotal point for me was before I played my match. On the bus trip to the venue, I met a gold medalist in judo! She was limping and bruised, but she had that gold medal around her neck. She let me hold it, and when it was in my hands, it felt like the heaviest thing in the world, and I realized that it would be amazing to win one for my country. That’s when it really hit me. From that point on, I didn’t care who I was going to play; I was going to go out there fighting and give it my all!”

Ariel Hsing with the rest of Team USA. Image curtsy of TopSpin.

And talk us through what was going through your head when you took your second set that tied the match at 2-2?
“Right now, I really don’t remember what was going through my head during the match. But I was trying really hard to stay focused and not even think about the score.”

Li Xiaoxia serving. Image curtsy of TopSpin

Li Xiaoxia then went on to win 4-2 but the match was no walk over and your play was truly inspirational; I can imagine that you have had a lot of media attention and new fans following that performance?!
“All the support I’ve gotten has truly been amazing. I really appreciate everyone who watched my matches or cheered for me! For example, people recognized me from Olympics when I was eating at a local restaurant, and hundreds and thousands of fans wrote words of encouragement on my Facebook fan page to support me. Also many soldiers from Afghanistan and Iran sent me their letters to congratulate me and encourage me. They are my heroes and great motivation. That has never happened to me before. As for media attention, I’m really thankful since I think it’s such a great opportunity to promote table tennis to the world.”

Now we are very keen to find out your plans for the future in the sport but let’s give our readers a quick insight into your past and how you got to this level of the sport at such a young age. You have been playing Table Tennis since you were only 7 but at what point did you start playing it competitively?
“I fell in love with table tennis as soon as I picked up a racket. Gradually, I just started playing more and more. When I was eight years old, I wrote “My dream is to make the Olympics one day” on a little piece of paper and I sealed it in a box. I convinced myself that if I opened that box, my wish would not come true. When I was younger, I was very chubby and uncoordinated, but my parents and coaches told me to ignore the taunts that I wasn’t athletic enough and I continued to pursue my dream. Now, eight years later, I’ve finally been able to open my box!”

Bill Gates is a great supporter of the sport and Ariel

A friend of yours, Bill Gates, was quoted saying, “I had my Rio 2016 ticket ready to watch Ariel play but never expected she would be ready for the London 2012 games at such a young age.” When did you realise that you could make the 2012 Olympics?
“A couple of months before the Olympic trials, everyone told me I would make the Olympic team. I kept putting so much pressure on myself, not wanting to let everyone down, until I was playing terribly. Two weeks before the trials, I had a breaking point where I was playing horribly, and there seemed like there was no chance I would make the Olympics anymore. At this time, my mom pulled me aside and calmed me down. She told me to not play table tennis for yourself, but instead to glorify God. Immediately, I started feeling and playing better. On the day of the Olympic trials, I felt a strange calm — I’ve never felt that way before. I felt so sure that I was going to make the team, and I really have to thank God for giving me such confidence and help.”

And how, if at all, did your training change in the run up for the London games?
“As the Games got closer, I focused more on game-situations. Our U.S. Table Tennis Team had a training camp in Preston, England with the Australian Team, so I got to play against different styles.”

Now there is a lot of speculation surrounding your future in the sport as apparently you are hoping to go to university/College, if so, do you think that you will be able to study and train?
“I can and I will! I’ll try my best to balance both school and table tennis because I definitely want to represent the United States in the 2016 Olympics.”

If you do go to College, what are you hoping to study?
“I want to study business. I’d like to start my own business one day and be able to travel internationally.”

Ariel has shown a mental maturity well beyond her years; here with Teodor Gheorghe

After your performance at the Olympics, many can’t wait to see you at the 2016 Rio Games. Do you think that with 4 more years of training and match experience under your belt, you could challenge for a medal or even gold and break that monopolisation that the China has?
“I hope so! There are only 3 sports that the United States has never medalled in: badminton, handball…and table tennis. I would love to win a medal for my country the next Olympics. If I can’t do it, I’ll help the next generation to win medals for USA.”

Could you see yourself moving out of the United States to play full time in leagues like the Bundesliga in German? Many UK players have done this in order get highly competitive matches and training week in – week out?
“That would be really interesting — and really helpful. Right now, match experience is one of the things that I really lack in compared to the world’s best. Playing a lot of matches against various teams would be a great learning experience for me. However, I think I will miss my parents a lot by living overseas!”

The future looks bright and we will be keeping a close eye on your progress in the sport. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us and we are looking forward to, hopefully, see you at the Rio Games!

It is clear to us, and hopefully all our readers, that Ariel is a girl who has a very bright career in this sport. However, she is also a down to earth teenager who has always dreamt of attending College and enjoying, as she should, her years as a teenager. I think that is what makes Ariel’s story all the more special. In this interview we really begin to understand that her journey is just beginning and there is a lot more to come from the athlete. What inspires so many is she still aspires to run her own business and go to University, table tennis almost seems like the easy part of her plans! I can’t wait to see Ariel in Rio; 4 more years of experience will build a world beating player who will be older and wiser…and half way through a college degree!

Good luck to her.


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