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August 1, 2022 1:04 pm

Orthodox Jewish Table Tennis Player Said Ridiculed by Partner’s Mother Over Modest Attire

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

A table tennis match (illustrative). Photo: Pierre-Yves Beaudouin via Wikimedia Commons.

The mother of a table tennis player who competed in a national competition verbally harassed her daughter’s Orthodox Jewish doubles partner for wearing to the match modest attire including a long sleeve shirt and knee-covering skirt, the New York Post reported.

Fei Ming Tong, a former Olympic table tennis star, allegedly berated Estee Ackerman, 20, before her daughter Lucy Chen’s doubles competition at the US National Table Tennis Championships in Texas in early July. Tong called Ackerman “ugly” and a “piece of s**t,” and described her outfit as “unprofessional” and “disgusting,” the player and her father, Glenn Ackerman, told the New York Post. Tong also yelled “no one wears that!”, according to Estee.

The only form of attire banned from the tournament is the wearing of white, Glenn said, since it is the same color as the ball. He also called Tong’s behavior an act of “discrimination,” and noted that she once trained Estee and knew she was Jewish.

Ackerman, a senior at Stern College for Women in New York City, began playing table tennis at the age of eight and at 11 beat tennis champion Rafael Nadal in the game. The Shabbat-observant athlete has won several gold medals at the US National Table Tennis Championships but was unable to compete in the trials for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo because they took place on a Saturday.

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Estee told the Post that the trash talk from Tong, who finished ninth in the 2000 Sydney Games, left her in tears. “It’s not like my dress was an impediment at all to my competition level. That’s definitely not the case,” she explained. “It was extremely painful.”

Tong later pulled her daughter out of the doubles event ahead of the quarterfinals match, which resulted in Estee being left without a partner and forced to be eliminated, according to the Post. Estee was still able to compete in other events and won a silver medal in the hardbat competition, which uses another style of racket.

Tong called Estee one of her “best and favorite” students. She did not think there were any issues between her and her former pupil and said, “I wish her all the best for her great future.”

USA Table Tennis CEO Virginia Sung said the governing body is investigating the incident.

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