With a paddle in her hand, Amy Wang appears empowered.

The Sewell sixth grader's unassuming demeanor is transformed as she confidently strikes the white hollow ball across the blue table. Should the ball return, she bounces to it and whips it back.

Amy easily makes a compelling case for why table tennis is not simply recreation for her. And what does she love most about the sport?

"Competition," she says.

Global competition.

This month, Amy will take the game she learned in the basement of her Gloucester County house to the 2015 World Table Tennis Championships in China - at 12, she is the youngest player on the four-member U.S. national women's team this year, and one of the youngest ever.

"It's a very good opportunity for her," said her father, David, 57, who taught her how to play. "I just watch, take pictures - for the memory."

David Wang, who works in computer repair, moved to the United States in 1987 from his native China, where table tennis is wildly popular and serious.

The sport was a good form of exercise for his children - Amy and brothers Allen, now 17, and Eddie, now 14, he said. Amy and Allen took the most interest, with Allen spending two years overseas in hope of qualifying for a Youth Olympics team.

"I came close," said Allen Wang, who after his time overseas is now a freshman at Washington Township High School who won in the men's doubles competition at the 2014 U.S. National Table Tennis Championship. "It's a challenging game."

Allen Wang, who has helped his sister prepare for her competitions, said Amy had grown "much stronger and faster."

Amy, who began playing at age 4, has won a number of competitions and has played in many countries, including Barbados and Slovenia. She is sponsored by Joola, a company that makes table-tennis equipment and clothing.

In 2011, during the opening of the Trolley Car Table Tennis Club in East Falls, the then-9-year-old Amy beat perhaps her most high-profile opponent: Mayor Nutter.

"He's pretty good," Amy remembered. "For a beginner."

Last month, Amy qualified for the national team after a trials competition in Texas.

Observers say she represents a wave of promising young American players in the competitive world of table tennis - a fact that, if sustained, could help raise the sport's prominence in the United States.

"They're good, they're really good," said Gordon Kaye, CEO of USA Table Tennis, a national organization with about 10,000 active members. "I think it bodes very well for the future."

Sean O'Neill, a spokesman for USA Table Tennis, said from three million to five million people in the country play table tennis somewhat regularly - though most not competitively.

Amy, a fan of Taylor Swift and the Harry Potter series, devotes much of her free time to training. She spends two hours nearly every day practicing in her basement - which houses three tables, boxes filled with plastic balls, and a net for solo serving practice.

Amy is quick on her feet, and disciplined and aggressive. O'Neill said, "Once she starts attacking, she's relentless until she finishes the point."

"Amy can hit the ball as fast as some of the men," O'Neill said. "She's very thin, but her technique is so strong."

David Wang said he instructs Amy to control the ball - "keep the ball on the table."

During competitions, Amy acknowledges, the long days can be grueling: "I get really tired and sore."

On the weekends, she practices at the Lily Yip Table Tennis Center in Dunellen, N.J. "She's really talented," said Lily Yip, a two-time U.S. table tennis Olympian, whose daughter, Judy Hugh, 24, is also on the women's national team.

Amy, she said, "will have a bright future."

By her own account, Amy's demanding schedule doesn't interfere with schoolwork from Orchard Valley Middle School. "It's kind of easy," she said, adding that she sometimes completes her homework during a 20-minute break before lunch.

Orchard Valley principal Steve Gregor said Amy had "not made a big splash about" her place in the international event, which begins April 26.

"She's very quiet and reserved," Gregor said. "Her teachers call her conscientious and determined."

In addition to the national team, Amy is a member of USA Table Tennis' cadet and junior squads, each with its own events. Her trip to China will be followed by a competition in Canada.

"I can't think of anyone who's going to have a more exhausting year than she will," O'Neill said.

But Amy doesn't seem particularly perturbed by that prospect. On what might come next, she mused: "Maybe the Olympics."

VIDEO: Amy Wang demonstrates her winning form. philly.com/tabletennis

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