Set against the backdrop of one of the most under-appreciated sports in America, three teenagers battle their way through the world of competitive ping pong. While facing the unusual challenges coming of age in a niche sport, their journey reveals the passion it takes to pursue their Olympic-sized dreams.
Ariel Hsing has aspirations to be the best table tennis player in the world and she is off to a great start. At 16, she is already a two-time U.S. Women's Table Tennis Champion. A San Jose native, Ariel wakes up every morning at 7am to practice serves before going to class. Training can last up to six hours a day at various clubs around the Bay Area. Along with her parents, Ariel has devoted her entire life to table tennis, with the hope of one day becoming an Olympian.
In 2009, Michael Landers became the youngest U.S. Men's Table Tennis Champion at the ripe age of 15. Hailing from Long island, New York, Michael spends summers training in central China but most of the time you can find him playing at SPiN, a ping pong social club in Manhattan. At 17, Michael has learned the meaning of sacrifice, having given up his last year of high school for what may be his only chance at making it to the 2012 London Olympics.
At one point, fifteen-year-old Lily Zhang was ranked second in the world in her age group, a first for any American-born table tennis player. Born and raised in Palo Alto, Lily got her start at the age of seven when she and her family played table tennis in the laundry room of the Stanford faculty apartments where her father taught math. Her evenings and weekends consist of training and she often misses school due to overseas tournaments. It is her love for the sport and the dream of playing in her first Olympics that keeps her motivated and committed to table tennis, the ultimate underdog sport.