One of more than 800 players ranging in age from 9 to 80, West Hempstead teen Estee Ackerman competed in the U.S. National Table Tennis Championships in Las Vegas July 2-7. Ackerman entered seven events, included Women’s Hardbat Singles, in which she won a gold medal for a third time. She defeated U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Famer Patty Martinez-Wasserman, 16-21, 21-12 and 21-14.
“That’s something that is very, very memorable,” Ackerman said. “I don’t think you could put a price on that.”
Ackerman, 16, also won a bronze medal in Junior Girls Doubles, teaming with Sabrina Zhu, of Atlanta. They lost to eventual champions Rachel Sung and Rachel Yang, of California. In Junior Girls Singles, Ackerman finished ninth out of 36 competitors. In the Under 2200 event — the largest in the tournament, with 294 players — Ackerman advanced to the quarterfinals before she was defeated by eventual finalist Ved Sheth, of California.
While she was pleased with her results overall, the senior at Yeshiva University High School for Girls, in Queens, said that there’s always room for improvement. “I think the sky is the limit,” Ackerman said. “I’m trying and hoping to keep up with my physical training to improve my game.”
This was the fifth or sixth time she has competed in the nationals, she said. “The experience that I had in the past was definitely really helpful,” she said, “but since this is one of the biggest tournaments in the country, the stakes are very high.”
Ackerman said she trains four to five days a week for two hours. Dealing with the rigors of training, she said, is all about having the right mindset. “I always say no pain, no gain,” she said. “If you have the work ethic, if you have the time and if you have the desire and thirst of wanting to strive for greatness, there’s definitely a price to pay.”
Ackerman was 7 when she first picked up a table-tennis paddle. She played the game with her older brother Akiva in the basement of her home. Her father, Glenn Ackerman — who played table tennis for 40 years — introduced his children to the sport to enhance their minds and to develop their hand-eye coordination.
Estee said she planned to compete in a few more tournaments this year, but she added that she would run more often this summer to boost her stamina. In addition, she hopes to keep up her charitable efforts. She will attend the Shalom Task Force’s annual Ping Pong Tournament and Barbeque on Aug. 13, where residents can pay to play a friendly game against her.
“It’s just a great sense of joy knowing that you have supporters behind your back in any sort of way, so it’s always important to give back,” she said.
Before she returned home from Las Vegas, Ackerman, an Orthodox Jew, visited the Gilbert Table Tennis Club in a Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles. “We were interested in what they do at the JCC on the Westside,” Glenn said. “It was very nice to see what they do and what we could bring out here to Oceanside to our club to get more people active.”
His daughter has her sights set on qualifying for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. The U.S. has never won a medal in table tennis, and she said that if she qualified, she would be the first Orthodox Jew to play for Team USA.
“I try not to worry about the future,” said Estee, who made her first Olympic run in 2016, when she tried out for the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “Sometimes people don’t focus on what they have in the present. It’s something . . . that I always keep in mind because it’s a dream of mine.”
She started a GoFundMe page in the hope of making it to the Olympics, and so far has raised about $650 of her $36,000 fundraising goal. Her website is bit.ly/2Nm6VRi.