Table Tennis: Buffett cheers on U.S. youngster from afar
By Steve Slater
LONDON (Reuters) - Top ranked American player Ariel Hsing can count two of the world's richest and most influential people among her biggest fans as she makes her Olympic table tennis debut on Saturday.
Ping pong enthusiast and U.S. investor Warren Buffett is unable to travel to watch the 16-year-old due to his treatment for prostate cancer, but will be watching from his home in Nebraska and has his eye on a courtside seat for Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
"I told her when I first met her when she was nine that I was going to come to the 2016 Olympics to watch her play. I never dreamt she was going to make it to 2012. It's amazing and I couldn't be more proud of her," Buffett told Reuters in a telephone interview on Friday.
Hsing, from Fremont, California, is seeded 46 in the women's singles and she faces Mexico's Yadira Silva in the first round on Saturday.
Buffett, 81, was diagnosed with cancer in April, and has started radiation treatment so is unable to travel - but he said his friend Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and chairman, would be watching in London.
"My health is 100 percent ... the radiation takes me half an hour every day so it's worth doing. I'd probably fly if I wasn't doing it," said the primary shareholder, chairman and CEO of investment firm Berkshire Hathaway.
Buffett, widely considered the most successful investor of the last century and the third richest person in the world with an estimated $44 billion fortune, has long been a table tennis fan.
When his friend, the bridge player Sharon Osberg, hosted a "mini-Olympics" for his 75th birthday in 2005 she asked a Californian coach to bring a young player to offer some competition for the guests.
"Ariel played some table tennis and made fools out of us," Buffett recalled. "She was very small then and she barely came up over the table, she was unbelievably good and unbelievably nice and well mannered, so we became friends and we're still friends."
She has played at three Berkshire Hathaway annual meetings, taking on all-comers among the amateurs who fancy their chances.
"I usually have a box of candy for anyone who can beat her in a 3-point game. I don't have to give away any candy," Buffett said, who has been having cancer treatment for two weeks, with another seven weeks to go.
Success at sports can have parallels in business. Hsing found a passion early for table tennis, as Buffett said he did at a young age for the investment world.
"There are similar qualities of determination and intensity in terms of working at whatever the activity is," he said.
"(For) people who are successful at anything that requires great application of their energies, if they take those same energies and apply them some place else they are also likely to have success."
Hsing already has her eye on a career in business, but, for now, a more immediate challenge looms.
After the singles competition, which ends on August 1, she is part of the U.S. trio due to play Japan in the first round of the team event. That is likely to match up Hsing against world number six player, 19-year-old Kasumi Ishikawi.
(Editing by Alison Williams)
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