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11-Year-Old Table Tennis Phenom Chooses Shabbos Over Championship

WEST HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Estee Ackerman is a ping-pong phenom, but when a national championship match fell on a Friday night, she decided to put her faith first.

As CBS 2's Vanessa Murdock reported, Estee, a sixth grader, is the biggest little thing in the world of table tennis.

"When you get good, it's cool," the 11-year-old said.

And "good" may be an understatement. She is ranked fourth in the nation in her age bracket.

"Never did I think my kids had such talent," said Chanie Ackerman, Estee's mother.

It takes practice. Estee spends at least two hours a day, six days a week, whacking balls with her dad or big brother so she can maintain top form.

But she said her biggest competition still has an edge.

"I think the Chinese kids, you know, like, they're playing six hours a day; they get out of school at 2 o'clock," Estee said. "It's tough."

Still, her sweet skills are drawing attention.

But a recent decision to call it quits at the national championship had some scratching their heads. Estee had made it through several rounds of competition, but her next match fell on a Friday night.

"We saw it was at 7:30, that's during our Sabbath," she said. "Of course, I was disappointed, but my religion, Judaism, comes first."

"The part which made it difficult was the fact that many thought she would have won if she had kept going," added her father, Glen Ackerman.

Estee's quest at nationals was cut short, but she said she has her sights set on a bigger arena.

"Maybe try out for the Olympics and bring back a medal for my country," she said.

And what if at the Olympics, the stage is set for her to play on the Sabbath?

"If, now were talking about playing for the gold medal, I don't know what we'd do," she said. "First, let's see if we get there."

Estee said she may head to China this summer for intensive training among her biggest rivals.

If you were in Estee's position, would you choose the tournament, or would you go with your faith? Leave your comments below...

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