Injections 'hurt' Feng's plans for Rio

Some $450,000 was raised at a gala dinner held by the Singapore Table Tennis Association to support its youth development programmes and fund other operating costs. Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean (centre) was the guest of honour at the event at
Some $450,000 was raised at a gala dinner held by the Singapore Table Tennis Association to support its youth development programmes and fund other operating costs. Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean (centre) was the guest of honour at the event at the Marina Mandarin Hotel.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Treatments for knee ailments are followed by rest, making it harder to prepare for events

For Feng Tianwei and the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA), the lead-up to next year's Olympics will be less an intense campaign to earn qualifying points and results than a juggling act.

For Singapore's top player is suffering from chronic knee problems and she revealed last night that she has to go for routine injections every six months or so.

The treatment involves the injection of hyaluronic acid, a natural joint lubricant, which helps curb the pain the world No. 7 experiences in her knees.

The problem though is not so much the injections per se but the fact that Feng needs complete rest for a fortnight after that.

It is then followed by another four weeks or so of recovery.

TIMING IS CRUCIAL

"It's very crucial when we choose to do the injections from now, so that it doesn't clash with the important tournaments.''

JING JUNHONG, national women's head coach

So while there were shockwaves in the country after she failed to progress beyond the group stages of the women's singles at last month's SEA Games - just three weeks after an injection - her premature exit was not viewed as a disaster by the STTA or Feng herself.

The paddler, who will turn 29 next month, said: "I sacrifice some tournaments after the injection, and each one only lasts for about six months.

"It affects my technique and my psychological state. And the results for the two months or so after each treatment are so-so ."

She was speaking on the sidelines of a gala dinner which the STTA held at the Marina Mandarin Hotel yesterday.

About $450,000 was raised to fund its youth development schemes and operating costs.

Feng underwent her first treatment after last year's Asian Games in Incheon, where she had fought through the pain.

However, she still managed to win her first continental title at the Asian Cup in March, upsetting China's world No. 2 Liu Shiwen.

"Every time you start to recover, you're so eager to get back to training and tournaments to find your form back but, sometimes, that in itself becomes your undoing," lamented Feng.

She estimated that she would need another two or three injections before the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Her next injection is scheduled around November.

The situation now means that the STTA has to be extra meticulous in timing her treatment.

It has to be even more strategic in choosing which tournaments to send Feng to.

"It's very crucial when we choose to do the injections from now, so that it doesn't clash with the important tournaments," said national women's head coach Jing Junhong.

She also noted that while Feng's world ranking has slipped three rungs this month, it is the points that are earned from August - they will roll into the immediate lead-up to the Olympic Games - that are more important.

She said: "The past six months have been very trying for Tianwei and she's really tried her best to cope with it.

"It's natural that injuries start to trouble an athlete at this stage of her career and it's inevitable that she's a little anxious.

"We can only try to adapt as much as we can as we go along."

Added Feng: "Table tennis is a sport where even the slightest detail can have a big effect on the result. I'm not Superman - I also need time to recover."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 12, 2015, with the headline 'INJECTIONS 'HURT' FENG'S PLANS FOR RIO'. Print Edition | Subscribe