Ariel Hsing was 11 when Warren Buffett first recruited her to play ping pong at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting.
Five years later, she exemplifies Buffett's gift for spotting winners. At 16, she is America's top-ranked under-18 player and No. 2 overall. Two weeks ago, she won a spot on the U.S. Olympic table-tennis team. At the Berkshire bash in Omaha this weekend, shareholders will have a chance to challenge her.
"She's a killer," says Buffett, a ping-pong enthusiast who first met Hsing when she was 9. "I knew right away she had the potential to be great because she had this determination. There was no doubt in my mind she was going to put in the hours."
By offering his shareholders a chance to play Hsing, Buffett has put to test the amateur athlete's most beloved conceit: On a good day, the amateur thinks, he could rank among the best. This notion can arise from a game-winning shot in pickup basketball, a near-perfect outing at the bowling alley, even a high-speed weave through traffic.