Table tennis: Questions remain over Feng Tianwei's future playing status

Feng could play in major sporting meets by switching nationalities. But according to ITTF rules, she has to wait three years before representing a new country.
Feng could play in major sporting meets by switching nationalities. But according to ITTF rules, she has to wait three years before representing a new country.

STTA endorsement needed for ITTF Pro Tour; participation in major sporting meets doubtful

While Feng Tianwei has assured her supporters that she will continue competing in international competitions, the way forward is not as clear-cut for Singapore's most bemedalled Olympian.

The world No. 6 was on Tuesday dropped from the national team as part of the Singapore Table Tennis Association's (STTA) rejuvenation process.

It is believed that the decision to drop the 30-year-old, who has been plagued by a chronic knee injury, was in part due to clashes between the player and the STTA's management, including her poor attitude towards coaches.

And for Feng to compete as a professional on the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Pro Tour, she has to be endorsed by the STTA.

Yesterday, the STTA responded to queries about Feng's playing status by saying: "STTA has yet to discuss the details with Feng Tianwei and will be doing so as soon as possible.

 
 

"We are working out the terms and conditions, which will be mutually agreed to. Ultimately, she is still representing Singapore at these tournaments."

The sport's local governing body can field a maximum of six players for each event. It already has Yu Mengyu, Zhou Yihan, Lin Ye and Zeng Jian on its books.

If selected, Feng, who has earned nearly $3 million in prize money since arriving in Singapore in 2007, has to fund her own competition expenses. These include airfare and accommodation as she is no longer in the national set-up.

The uncertainty over her competing on the ITTF Pro Tour also means her participation in major sporting meets like the Olympics is doubtful, as qualification for these events is dependent on ranking points that players accrue by playing in ITTF Pro Tour events.

Even if she gets enough points, she still has to be nominated by the STTA, which will then submit its list of selected players to the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) for approval.

That said, the authorities have in the past stepped in to bypass a national sports association.

In 2001, the Singapore Sports Council, the precursor to Sport Singapore, held trials to select gymnasts for that year's SEA Games, as the Singapore Amateur Gymnastics Association had been delisted by the SNOC.

In 2013, the SNOC also questioned the STTA's nominations for that year's Asian Youth Games, which led to selection trials being held to select representatives again.

Feng, a native of Heilongjiang province in China, could play in major sporting meets by switching nationalities. However, according to ITTF rules, she has to wait three years before representing a new country.

Feng said in a Facebook post that she would address questions about her future soon.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2016, with the headline 'Questions remain over Feng's future playing status'. Print Edition | Subscribe