Fasting Teen Wins Table Tennis Gold
That a Shabbat-observant teen on her way to the 2020 Olympics took home
the gold for the Under-20 Girls' Doubles with her partner, Linda Shu,
from Texas is an impressive feat. But what made the victory truly extraordinary
is that she was competing in the high-energy, high-stress match on Asarah
B'Tevet, a Jewish fast day.
Estee Ackerman, 17, explains to Chabad.org that she had a strategy
to make it through the day of competition at the U.S. Open in table tennis.
She focused on hoarding calories before the fast. She ramped up her training
on Monday night, when she could still eat, and didn't have any practice
sessions on Tuesday morning before the Under-20 Doubles meet began.
"Nothing was going to stop me from a gold medal. I realized I put
much work and dedication into this and, baruch Hashem [thank G d], I'm
17 and in good shape," Estee notes, adding that she was careful not
to overdo it when she wasn't playing.
"I truly felt G-d was with me for every point," she says.
doubles' victory wasn't Estee's only impressive feat at the U.S. Open.
On Dec. 19, she beat out No. 1 seed and veteran table-tennis champ Lily
Yip to win the Women's Hardbat Singles' event competition in Orlando,
Fla. "For me, being able to not only compete against her, and win
and claim myself as best female hardbat player in America, is something
I will never forget. I treated it as one of my greatest wins in my ping-pong
"Hardbat" refers to the type of racquet used in play, Estee
explains, noting that her win was far from secure.
"[Yip] got the first game, and if you asked me or my father, we
had a bit of a letdown because I'd lost," says Estee. "But if
you know me well, second place isn't in my vocabulary, and I go into tournaments
with the mindset of one goal: a gold medal."
Estee says her motivation to succeed in table tennis come in part from
the public reaction to an event that happened back in 2012. That year,
when she was just 11, the youngster decided to forfeit a match rather
than play on Shabbat [see "Pre-Teen
Ping Pong Phenom" on this site].
"I was amazed and humbled that year when I got letters and calls
from people I didn't know- people who were Reform, Conservative, religious-telling
me that they were inspired to be more involved," she recalls. "Who
would have thought ping-pong would lead to such a thing?
"We are to be part of the Jewish nation," says Estee. "People
sometimes forget how big a zechus ['merit'] it is to be a bas Yisrael
[the 'daughter of Israel'], bas Melech [the 'daughter of the King'], and
that was really my motivation to keep going.
"There are ups and downs, and definitely challenges" in pursuing
her dream sport, she acknowledges, adding that those challenges bring
her closer to G d.
During her week in Orlando, Estee spent Shabbat with Chabad of Orlando,
where she addressed synagogue members following Saturday-morning services.
"The community members and guests who were present were so inspired
by her success, but even more so, by her commitment to Torah Judaism and
her decision to place Shabbat before anything else," said Rabbi Yosef
Konikov, co-director of Chabad of Orlando with his wife, Chani.
As 2019 dawns, Estee has her eyes on some more regional table-tennis
competitions in her path to the Olympics. For now, though, she's focused
on finishing her senior year in high school), going to Israel in the fall
to continue her Jewish education and encouraging other people to follow
Source: Excerpted from an article by Faygie Levy-Holt (chabad.org/4249391
-- including photo)