COLUMBIA — Justin Hsing steps onto the court on an already hot and muggy morning and wipes the sweat off his forehead. He readies himself to receive his opponent's serve. The ball is hit swiftly and Hsing lunges to no avail as it sails past him.
“I knew I was in trouble after his first serve,” Hsing said. “He hits too fast.”
Hsing, 17, competed in singles in the Show-Me State Games' junior tennis tournament on Friday morning in a field of 75 competitors. But Hsing doesn’t live in Missouri; he lives in New York.
Hsing could play in the Show-Me State Games because he has resided in Missouri for the required 30 days. He is not in Missouri to play tennis, though, he is here for academic reasons. He has been working on a science project this summer and has been doing vaccine research at the Life Sciences Center on the MU campus. He is staying with his aunt and uncle who live in Columbia.
"I play tennis at home back in New York, casually, and I was here already, so I thought it would be a good experience," Hsing said. "It was definitely a spur of the moment decision to play."
The idea to play in the Show-Me State Games came from Hsing's uncle, Chung-Ho-Lin, who competes in the adult singles and doubles, which took place last weekend.
"I wanted to invite him to join the spirit of the games," Lin said. "I've learned a lot about sportsmanship and the thrill of competition and I wanted to pass it on and give him a chance to experience it."
For Hsing, winning isn't as much of a concern as is the thrill of getting to compete. He plays for leisure once or twice a week back home, but until Friday he had never played in an tennis tournament.
"My high school back home doesn't have a boys tennis team and none of my friends really play tennis," Hsing said. "This is a good opportunity for me to try and get better and play in a competitive environment."
Although Hsing said he was excited about the chance to compete, he seemed a bit overwhelmed after his first match, in which he was defeated soundly. But, he did not get discouraged and had lots of support from his uncle and other family members.
"It is definitely much more competitive," Hsing said. "I'm not used to the talent that tends to flow around here."
Aside from playing tennis in the Show-Me State Games, Hsing's uncle has planned several other outdoor activities for him during his stay, including camping, canoeing, kayaking and fishing.
"This is a great state for outdoor activity, which he doesn't get a chance to do too much of," Lin said. "And coming here gives him a chance to get out of his comfort zone."
After the first set of Hsing's second and likely last match of the double elimination tournament, he met with his opponent at the net with sweat dripping down his face onto his shirt. After brief discussion they sat in slim patch of shade provided by a fence cover that surrounds the court.
"I'm not use to this heat and humidity," Hsing said. "I always play inside back home."
His opponent agreed to stop play to take a break to give Hsing a much needed cool-down before resuming the second set.
"I definitely will be able to take sportsmanship out of competing in this tournament, but hopefully I can take some more tennis skill as well as endurance from this heat back to New York," Hsing said laughing.