Table tennis: Feng Tianwei breaks silence after national team axing, insists she never broke rules or the law

Feng Tianwei eyes the ball during play against Ai Fukuhara of Japan at the 2016 Rio Olympics on Aug 9, 2016.
Feng Tianwei eyes the ball during play against Ai Fukuhara of Japan at the 2016 Rio Olympics on Aug 9, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Singapore's most bemedalled Olympian Feng Tianwei on Friday (Oct 28) issued a response to her axing from the national table tennis team.

The Singapore Table Tennis Association's (STTA's) decision to drop her on Tuesday was greeted with shock by the local and international fraternities, with many commenting that the 30-year-old world No. 6 still had much to offer.

Apart from a brief statement to the media on Tuesday, Feng had remained largely silent - until Friday night.

In a statement written in Chinese, she said: "I want to thank everyone for their concern, and I apologise for making you worried. Everything happened suddenly and I needed time to adjust.

"It's been almost 10 years since I first represented Singapore in 2007. There have been several highlights - becoming a world champion, winning Olympic medals and achieving a lifelong dream. All these wouldn't have been possible without the government, the Singapore National Olympic Council, Sport Singapore and the STTA, and I want to thank them for their support.

 
 
 

"At the same time, I want to thank the fans for accompanying me on this journey, which kept me motivated and made me feel like I was never alone."

The STTA had said in a statement on Tuesday that Feng "does not fit into the STTA's current plans for rejuvenation". This followed a disappointing outing at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, with the women's table tennis team returning empty-handed for the first time in three editions.

On Friday, Feng reiterated her intention to continue representing Singapore and expressed a hope that she could compete at the Tokyo Olympics, when she will be 34. She also called for a fair and transparent selection process.

"I will not give up the sport. I will continue playing and representing Singapore. I hope to improve the state of table tennis here, and prove that all the government investment in sport is not for nothing," she added.

"Although I am no longer in the national team, I will stay in the country. I am still a Sports Excellence Scholar, and I am in discussions with the relevant parties regarding the support I can get. The STTA has said they will support my competing internationally, so I will continue pushing myself.

"It was disappointing to come so close to winning a medal at the Olympics, but through the experience I learnt that I still have a lot of room for improvement.

"I hope that there is a fair selection process for competitions, and I certainly hope to play at the Tokyo Olympics, where I wish to win more medals for Singapore and hopefully, my fourth Olympic medal."

She revealed that she is exploring a new arrangement, where she would build a new team around her for competitions.

"I will try to form a new team, including a new coach, sparring partners, and fitness trainers, and compete with this new set-up. Perhaps it might mean more space for development," she said. "I will train harder, and hope that I can improve through competing against the world's best players."

She also expressed shock at some media reports, which cited sources accusing her of misconduct and ill discipline. She insisted that she had never broken any rules or the law.

"Some reports have made assassinations on my character and impacted my reputation negatively. I am shocked by these allegations. Throughout my time at the STTA, I have never committed fraud or done anything illegal. I have consulted lawyers on these reports."

She then thanked her supporters and urged fellow Singaporeans to continue believing in her and supporting her.

"Finally, I want to thank everyone and my friends in the media for giving me time and space and for their support. I am a citizen of Singapore, and it is my honour to be able to bring glory to the country. Please continue to support and cheer me on."

In English, she concluded: "I would like to contribute and continue to represent Singapore. From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much for your support."