WEST HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A Long Island teen is celebrating a big win on a small court.
She beat out competitors from all over the nation in table tennis, and she did it while observing a religious fast.
With razor-sharp eyes, Estee Ackerman has her sights set on the 2020 summer Olympics.
“I am not focused on anything else but the ball or my opponent,” she told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff. “It would be a dream for me, as the U.S. has never medaled.”
The 17-year-old phenom from West Hempstead is one step closer after acing the US Open Table Tennis championships in Las Vegas. She brought home two gold medals in doubles and singles, beating a two-time Olympian. That makes Estee the top women’s hardbat player in America.
A hardbat racquet is exemplified by the pimples on it, she explained.
Whatever her racquet, she’s been slamming opponents since making headlines at age 11 as an orthodox Jew, when she skipped a national championship to observe sabbath. Last week, the US Open fell on a religious fast day, meaning no eating or drinking.
“Yes, my throat was parched. I was looking to quench my thirst, but I was very very focused on one thing, which was the gold medal,” Estee said.
She’s also focused on Judaism, which she says outranks the sport.
“Everyone needs values in life, with school number three, table tennis number two and Judaism number one,” she said. “I know there is much more important things in life.”
Her father, often on the receiving end of Estee’s power, says a higher power dictates how they keep their faith, and Estee on top of her game.
“It’s not a challenge, it’s a way of life for us,” he said.
What Estee says she loves best about ping pong is that almost anyone can play.
“You don’t have to be 6’2″, you don’t have to be crazy quick,” she said.
You do have to practice like crazy with several trainers several times a week if you’re an aspiring Olympian.
“Nothing is going to get in my way. If it’s an Olympian, if it’s not eating or drinking. I play my 100 percent best,” she said.
That’s a message she hopes to spread to other kids, whatever life serves up.
“I know that in life, if someone has a dream why not go and pursue it with everything you can,” she said.
Qualifying for the 2020 Olympics will not take place until about a year from now.