Former national paddler Wang Yuegu embracing single-minded focus

Former national paddler Wang Yuegu coaching nine-year-old Zach Tio, with the highlights of her curriculum vitae in full view. The 36-year-old has been coaching since hanging up her bat in 2012. Her coaching load includes more than 50 paddlers who tra
Wang Yuegu jokes with guests at the 100th day celebration for her son at the Temasek Club on Saturday. The infant put his foot on the icing when Wang cut the cake. ST PHOTO: LIN XINYI
Wang Yuegu jokes with guests at the 100th day celebration for her son at the Temasek Club on Saturday. The infant put his foot on the icing when Wang cut the cake.
Former national paddler Wang Yuegu coaching nine-year-old Zach Tio, with the highlights of her curriculum vitae in full view. The 36-year-old has been coaching since hanging up her bat in 2012. Her coaching load includes more than 50 paddlers who train with her regularly. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Former paddler set to expand her coaching network while raising her son as a single parent

When she tied the knot five years ago, Wang Yuegu thought she had found a doubles partner for life. It ended up being an experience tougher than any match-up she had been through in her illustrious career.

The former national table tennis player, 36, recently revealed that she has divorced her husband Gabriel Lee, 34, and is now ready to fly solo - in life and in work.

The two-time Olympic medallist, who has been coaching paddlers here since hanging up her bat in 2012, is setting up her own training centre - the Wang Yuegu Table Tennis Academy.

Wang - and her team of about 10 coaches - will conduct daily sessions from their Temasek Club base at Rifle Range Road next month, taking in trainees from as young as four.

In just a few years of coaching, she has already produced players who have gone on to win national age-group titles, leading to calls within the fraternity for her to form her own elite team.

But for this former world-beater - she was part of the Singapore side that stunned China for the world team title in 2010 - it is not all about churning out champions.

  • Wang Yuegu Table Tennis Academy

    •Where: Temasek Club (Rifle Range Road).

    •When: 6pm-9pm (Mon-Fri); 1.30pm-9pm (Sat); 4-9pm (Sun).

    •Who: Classes for beginners, intermediate and advanced players are available.

    •Cost: From $95 for beginners to $125 for advanced players (four one-hour sessions a month), not inclusive of a one-time $55 registration fee.

    For more information, e-mail wangyuegu@hotmail.com An open house will be held at Temasek Club for those aged four and above to try their hand at the sport.

    •Date: Nov 5 (Saturday)

    •Time: 10.30am-12.30pm

    •Venue: Multi-purpose Hall

    Those interested can contact Tian Jun at 6801-4273 or tianjun@temasekclub.org.sg

TEACHING WIDER SKILLS

They can still learn values like teamwork and what it means to persevere. All these can help make a difference in their lives in the future.

I just want to share what I've been through - not just teach technical skills for table tennis, but also an attitude for life.

WANG YUEGU, former national paddler, on what she seeks to impart to young players.

Her desire lies in helping to develop the sport here, and she has no qualms teaching the basics to those who are already in their teens when they play the sport for the first time.

"Whether or not to groom a child into an elite player is not something that's just up to me," she told The Straits Times. "You also need the parents' support and for the child to be willing. But no matter what, every player needs a strong foundation."

Apart from coaching at four schools and partnering ActiveSG to conduct holiday camps, Wang's coaching load includes more than 50 paddlers who train with her regularly.

Those who opt for private coaching spend as many as six hours each week training under her, with the highlights of her curriculum vitae in full view at the training venue. Among the prized possessions that adorn the walls are a team silver from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and a team bronze from London 2012.

The former world No. 5 added: "Not every child will become a top player, but they still have passion for the sport. They can still learn values like teamwork and what it means to persevere. All these can help make a difference in their lives in the future.

"I just want to share what I've been through - not just teach technical skills for table tennis, but also an attitude for life."

It is not hard to see why Wang is keen to impart both table tennis and life lessons. It was precisely fortitude built from over two decades as a professional athlete that has recently helped her through what she called her life's "biggest nightmare".

Shortly after giving birth in July, Wang filed for divorce and now has full custody of her three-month-old son. Born Anakin Lee Yu Ming, he has been renamed Wang Zile.

The split with German-Taiwanese Lee - which she claimed was due to his infidelity - also ended a partnership in which he also coached.

"People say you get taken care of like royalty during your confinement period. It only turned out to be the toughest ordeal of my life," she recalled in between tears.

But help and support from those around her have not been in short supply. Wang's 62-year-old mother, who moved to Singapore a decade ago, helps to take care of the baby while she works.

Friends and her young trainees' parents have also stepped forward to back Wang, from helping her sort out logistics and legal details in registering the academy, to organising her baby's 100-day-old celebration over the weekend.

Said Wang, a Liaoning native who became a Singapore citizen in 2007: "I've always referred to Singapore as my home. Now, with the kind of support I have behind me here, I'd say my roots are here."

With plans to take her trainees overseas for competition in the works, hopes to expand her collaboration with ActiveSG to the eastern part of the island and more students expected to join her fold soon, she knows the road ahead as a single mother and coach will be challenging.

But the thought of having to go it alone is not daunting.

She said: "I've been through the toughest test of my life. I'm not going to be afraid of anything else. My future will only be better."

After all, she might have plenty of silverware from team and doubles events, but singles has always been her forte.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2016, with the headline 'Solo role to drive academy ambition'. Print Edition | Subscribe