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Parkway's Mr. Ping Pong

Alex Yao, an eighth-grader at Central Middle, is determined to go to the Olympics in table tennis.  He continues to rack up some of the highest scores in the nation in his age group.  At one recent tournament, he outmaneuvered players from 10 other countries.

Alex trains vigorously for the sport, even though it isn’t that popular in the U.S.  He typically practices more than three hours a day at home after school and trains outside his house with a jump rope, in addition to doing 50 push-ups and 200 sit-ups after finishing dinner and homework.

Alex comes by way of table tennis courtesy of his family.  His mom, Xu, has an international reputation in table tennis and began coaching him at an early age.  His father, Jonathan, notes that the sport “stimulates the brain, promotes quick thinking, improves hand-eye coordination and keeps players fit without putting severe stress on joints.”  And his older brother, Justen, used to train with him and compete internationally and nationally.  In fact, the family’s table tennis talent once caught the eye of some folks at St. Louis City Hall, so the St. Louis Board of Alderman passed a resolution honoring the family.