Mandy Yu: Byron's table tennis sensation (Post Bulletin Sat April 10, 2021)

Mandy Yu is a resident of Byron and a Kellogg Middle School sixth-grader who also happens to be the best 11-year-old girls table tennis player in the country.
The best 11-under girls table tennis player in the country resides in Byron.

Her name is Mandy Yu, a Kellogg Middle School sixth-grader.

There is a girl who resides in the same house as her that isn’t far from her abilities. That is 8-year-old Abigail Yu, her sister.

Watch them play each other, the ball being smacked back and forth in such endless and rapid-fire succession, that it seems impossible that neither one of them is yet a teenager.

That is true until a close look reveals that Abigail’s chin isn’t much above the table tennis playing surface.

“My sister is a lot better than I was at her age,” Mandy said, taking a break from one of her six-days per week marathon training sessions at Rochester Table Tennis Club in Northwest Rochester. There, she is instructed by U.S. National Development Team Coach Wei Qi, a Rochester resident who emigrated from China.

“When I was 8 years old, I barely knew how to play,” Mandy said. “(Abigail) will probably beat me soon. She’s getting closer.”

There are a whole bunch of 11 year olds around the country who would like to beat Mandy. But when the chips are down, none have been able to figure out how to do it.

At least not in the last couple of years. A long break from national table tennis tournaments was taken by all players recently as a result of the COVID pandemic. The last time that Mandy took part in one was in December of 2019 when she won the 10-under championship at the US National Table Tennis Open in Dallas. Five months before that, Mandy was crowned the 10-under champion at the US National Table Tennis Championships in Las Vegas.

There are two primary places to hand credit for that. It is her insatiable appetite to get better, bringing on table tennis workouts with Qi that take three hours of her day, six days per week. Practice makes, in this case, a champion as well as a future Olympic Games hopeful.

And then there is Qi himself.

“Wei is a national coach, so he knows his stuff,” Mandy said. “He is very encouraging all the time. Sometimes he gets a little bit mad at me, but not too much.”

Mandy believes that Qi will get her to where she wants to go.

“My goal is to be an Olympian,” she said. “I know it’s going to take a lot of effort, but I want to do it. Being good at this helps me meet a lot of people and have a lot of opportunities.”

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