UNEQUAL CHILDHOODS

Home circumstances give boost to budding table tennis player

Lim Qi, who is ranked 11th in her age group, at a practice session at the Singapore Table Tennis Association. The 12-year-old excels not only in table tennis but also in her studies.
Lim Qi, who is ranked 11th in her age group, at a practice session at the Singapore Table Tennis Association. The 12-year-old excels not only in table tennis but also in her studies.ST PHOTO: LIN ZHAOWEI

LIM QI

Then: Possessed wide vocabulary

Now: A strong table tennis player, who also excels in her studies

Not many children at the age of six would know the meaning of "oxymoron" but, when interviewed six years ago in kindergarten, Lim Qi not only knew the word but could also give examples such as "dark light and cold sun" to illustrate it.

Her vocabulary has only widened since then - she is able to use words like "benchmark", "gauge" and "resilience" in her conversation as well as describe and differentiate between odours such as "acrid", "rancid" and "putrid".

Her parents, Mr Roger Lim and Madam Yvonne Yeo, who run a communications firm and live in a landed home, attribute her wide vocabulary and intellectual curiosity at least partly to her pre-school education at EtonHouse International in Newton. It helped that she read widely and played online vocabulary games such as WordGirl.

She works hard and does not need any prodding from her parents. Whenever she comes across a word she does not know, she makes it a point to look up the meaning and create sentences using the word.

Throughout her pre-school and primary school years at Nanyang Primary School, her parents encouraged her to have varied pursuits, including playing the violin, dance, ceramic art and drawing, which she proclaimed a great love for in pre-school.

Now, she has become a strong table tennis player, apart from excelling in her studies.

Her mother, who studied in Central Saint Martins in London, says that she and her husband, who have two other children, are not pushy parents. "We really want Qi to explore her interests in as wide an area as possible. The funny thing is we didn't expose her to table tennis but she tried it in school, really liked it and showed potential in it, and so we have helped her pursue that."

 
 

Her parents take turns to ferry her to training at the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) in Toa Payoh five times a week and go to tournaments with her, mostly in the region. Last year, they accompanied her to one in Belgium.

Now, at 12 years old in Nanyang Primary, Qi dreams of representing Singapore in table tennis and doing well enough academically to go on to realise her dream of becoming a medical doctor.

She is already in the STTA's junior development squad and is ranked 11th in her age group.

She is hoping to make it to Raffles Girls' School through the Direct School Admission scheme by using her talent in table tennis.

Qi remains way ahead of the two other girls who were featured alongside her six years back, when they were about to enter Primary 1.

One of the other girls, whose father is a lorry driver, lives in a three-room flat and the other, whose single mum worked then as a cleaner, lives in a rental one-room flat.

The gap that had opened up even before the girls went to kindergarten - because of their home circumstances - has only widened.

Said Mr Lim, who studied at the London School of Economics: "We know Qi is fortunate. We are in a position to give her the best opportunities in life.

"But there are many children whose parents are unable or don't have the means to provide as much. We feel that more should be done for them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 15, 2018, with the headline 'Home circumstances give boost to budding table tennis player'. Print Edition | Subscribe