By Vivian Lee
Photos of Judy and Adam Hugh by John Oros, copyright 2000.
Three years ago, the table tennis world had never heard of Adam and Judy Hugh. Today, the brother-sister duo is a regular at tournaments, participating in as many as fifteen tournaments a year, and racking up a slew of impressive titles along the way. With ratings of about 2200 and 1500, respectively, itís hard to believe that Adam, 12, and Judy, 10, are each barely a decade old.
They are the children of 1992 & 1996 U.S. Olympian Lily Yip (who is married to Barry Dattel Ė giving them a second live-in practice partner!), so perhaps itís in their genes to excel in table tennis. In fact, it was their motherís involvement in table tennis that first influenced the Hughs to begin playing when they moved to Warren, New Jersey several years ago. Adam explains, "My mom always played table tennis and since I was also interested in sports, I decided to give it a try."
The Hughs possess a natural athleticism and talent for table tennis, as evidenced by the phenomenal rate in which they have improved. Even as beginners, they were quick to learn and develop their games.
At one of his first tournaments, Adam, then rated 1100, registered for seven events and won all seven events, driving his rating up 500 points to 1600. A few tournaments later, his rating again surged and he was 1800. This marked a turning point in his table tennis game, and it was then that he started playing "really seriously and competitively, not just partially serious anymore."
Judy showed a similar natural aptitude for table tennis at her first tournament, the 1997 Junior Olympics, where she captured a bronze in Under 10 Girlsí Singles and a gold in Under 10 Girlsí Doubles.
Though only 4í4" tall, she plays a close-to-the-table aggressive with a powerful forehand. Even at age ten, she dreams to someday become a professional table tennis player or coach. For short-term goals, however, Judy hopes to raise her rating to 1800 by the end of the year.
To do this, she knows there are certain parts of her game that she must improve. "I have trouble looping against underspin with my backhand," she confesses, "but itíll probably improve as I get taller and stronger." She obviously proved, however, that she plays a very competitive game when she won the Under 10 Girlsí Singles and finished 2nd in the Under 12 Girlsí Singles at the 1999 U.S. Open.
On the other hand, Adam, who will be an eighth grader this upcoming school year, also holds an impressive number of national titles. Currently the second ranked Under-14 boy in the U.S., he is also the defending Under 2100 and Under 13 Junior Champion from the 1999 U.S. Nationals.
Though heís very serious about playing table tennis, he believes that academics come first. "If [someone] really wants to play seriously and get to the top level, they have to practice as much as they can, but school should be first," he states. By working hard in school, he hopes to one day become either a lawyer or do something with computer science.
Besides school, Adam enjoys playing basketball, soccer, mountain biking, and hanging out with his friends, while Judy likes to play tennis. Table tennis, however, probably takes up the majority of their time, as Judy professes, "I donít know, I donít really do much besides table tennis."
The siblings train once a week with their table tennis coach and mother Yip, but play practice matches almost every day at the New Jersey Table Tennis Club. Though they both like to win, it is the pure enjoyment of playing table tennis that motivates them to play every day. "I donít really like to practice," admits Judy, "I just like playing I guess."
For training, Yip works with them on basic techniques and does footwork drills and multiball. But more importantly, Yip is a source of inspiration for her children. When asked which table tennis player they admire the most, both Adam and Judy said their mom. "I look up to my mom because sheís a good player, she motivates me, and she encourages me to win," says Adam.
"I admire her confidence," adds Judy, "Yea, [I want to] be like her."
For now, the Hughs seem to be on the right track. Perhaps, Adam, like his mother, will someday attain his goal of "making the Olympic team."