(From right) Wang Yuegu, Li Jiawei and Feng Tianwei at the victory ceremony for the Olympic team event earlier this month. They claimed the bronze in London to add to the silver from Beijing. — ST FILE PHOTOS
By Lin Xinyi
ON HOLIDAY in Beijing, Wang Yuegu spent yesterday morning going to the market with her mother, and the rest of the day relaxing.
After a table tennis career that spanned over two decades, the 32-year-old is finally living the life she has always dreamt of.
She announced her retirement to The Straits Times yesterday, officially marking the end of Singapore’s most successful team.
Together with team-mates Feng Tianwei and Li Jiawei, she won a women’s team silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, then a bronze at this month’s London Games.
The trio were also part of the team that became world champions for the first time in 2010, when Singapore defeated powerhouses China 3-1 in Moscow.
“Now I’m ready to live like a pig – do nothing but eat and sleep,” the world No. 10 said laughingly, in stark contrast to a voice tinged with a hint of sadness just moments earlier, when she revealed that she had quit.
She insisted, however, that she had prepared for the moment, having decided to hang up her bat back in January,when she picked up a serious elbow injury.
“Nobody retires before the Olympics, it’s what we train for. I told myself to persevere until London,” she added in a telephone interview from the Chinese capital.
“It’s the right time to leave. I’m getting old, I’ve been injured, and I’ve a family now. It’s time to give our youth paddlers a chance.
“If it’s still the three of us (including Feng and Li, who has yet to confirm if she will play on) at Rio in 2016, it’s not good for the development of Singapore sport.”
So while table tennis will continue to be close to her heart, prompting her to watch the China Open on television last week, she is ready for change.
That means spending more time with her mum and her Germany-based Taiwanese husband Gabriel Lee, 29.
That means trying to start a family (she would like to have two kids). And that possibly means hitting the books to study economics and management, or sports psychology.
But one thing is for sure, she sees her future in Singapore.
“No matter where life takes me, I’ll always return to Singapore. I want my first child to be born here too,” said the Liaoning native, who became a Singapore citizen in 2007.
“I didn’t come here for money but for the love of the sport. I hate it when people keep associating medals with money.
“I can’t change their minds. But not everyone that comes from China hangs around for money.”
In contrast to many other China-born athletes, Wang has never been one to refrain from expressing her opinions – forcefully if need be.
In March, she criticised European umpires for being arrogant and amateurish, and just last month, she alleged that there was a German conspiracy against her during the Olympics.
But the winner of four Pro Tour singles titles insisted she has no regrets over her career.
“I gave it everything I had,” she said. “What we did in Moscow was my greatest achievement – to be able to beat the China team once in my life.
“But the two Olympics mean the most, that was my dream since I was young.”
Perhaps fittingly, the results from these three events are a gold, a silver and a bronze.
“I’m very satisfied. I have a complete collection,” she said.
By Lin Xinyi
firstname.lastname@example.org, StraitsTimes, Published on Aug 30, 2012