Table tennis: Former paddler Li Jiawei gives back

Li Jiawei at the World University Games flag presentation ceremony at UTown in the National University of Singapore yesterday. The former national paddler is sponsoring the Singapore contingent for their training camp in Taiwan.
Li Jiawei at the World University Games flag presentation ceremony at UTown in the National University of Singapore yesterday. The former national paddler is sponsoring the Singapore contingent for their training camp in Taiwan.PHOTO: SINGAPORE UNIVERSITY SPORTS COUNCIL

Former national paddler Li Jiawei hopes to groom the next generation of local Olympians at the Jiawei Table Tennis Academy (JTA), which opened last month.

The academy, in the Chinese Swimming Club at Amber Road, already has 25 paddlers on its books since it opened on July 1.

Li is the chief executive officer of the academy, as well as its chief coach who oversees its operations.

Other full-time coaches are hired to conduct the training sessions for the children.

Said the 35-year-old, who helped Singapore win a table tennis team bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics: "Everything that I have today was given to me by Singapore. I arrived here more than 20 years ago and was given the chance by Singapore.

"Opening the academy is something I should do to give back to the country.

"It has always been my wish to nurture local paddlers.

"I hope to bring up the next generation of youth paddlers to represent Singapore and nurture another Olympic medallist."

Li, who has been based in Beijing since her retirement in 2012, will be shuttling between the two cities, with the academy up and running.

She added: "Each month when I return, I will stay for about two weeks. The parents joined the academy because they heard my name. I don't want them to think that I'm not around, I must be here."

Additionally, JTA has teamed up with the table tennis squad heading for the World University Games in Taiwan, supporting them with financial aid to travel early for a training camp tonight.

The Games start on Aug 19, giving the seven members a fortnight of preparation in Taiwan before the competition.

Li said: "One way to help them win is to get them in a competitive mode.

"JTA is still new and this was the first sponsorship opportunity that came to our attention.

"I don't have any targets for them, but I hope they give their best and can achieve outstanding results."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2017, with the headline 'Former paddler Li gives back'. Print Edition | Subscribe