Teen table tennis prodigy: 'My sights are set on 2016'

Feng Li / Getty Images

Ariel Hsing, 16, who counts Warren Buffett and Bill Gates among her pals, competes on August 3 in London.

After nearly defeating one of the world’s best table tennis players in a drawn-out Olympic match, American Ariel Hsing may soon be known as more than the teenager with billionaire pals.

Hsing, 16, lost to the eventual gold medal winner on July 29 but only after pushing China’s Li Xiaoxia to the limit in six tight games. Hsing said the experience opened her eyes to her potential.

“Before, I did not realize that I could compete with the world’s best,” the San Jose, Calif., teen told TODAY’s Jenna Bush Hager. “But now I’ve gained a little bit more confidence so my sights are set on 2016.”

Hsing got a surprise visit in London when one of her biggest fans, “Uncle Bill” Gates, slipped into the arena to watch her match. The Microsoft chairman called her performance “northing short of phenomenal.”

Hsing also is known for being friends with “Uncle Warren” Buffet, whom she first met as a 9-year-old prodigy at the billionaire investor’s 75th birthday party. Buffet has since invited her to several of his company’s shareholders meetings, which is how she met Gates.

At such a meeting earlier this year, “we played a few points and they whipped out their really large paddle it was like a pizza flipper,” she said.

Like most Americans, Hsing started playing table tennis in the garage as a young girl. She said her parents have supported her endeavors provided she keeps up her grades. That hasn’t been a problem for the straight-A student.

TODAY's Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, and Matt Lauer attempt to take on table tennis Olympian Ariel Hsing in a friendly little competition (with the help of an extra-large paddle).

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