Despite being axed unexpectedly by the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA), Feng Tianwei insists that her desire to continue donning the red and white of the Singapore flag has not waned.
The world No. 5 came out to reiterate this yesterday as she responded to letters published in The Straits Times Forum section by reader Jeff Tan Hong Liak and the STTA's chief executive officer Wong Hui Leng.
Feng told The Straits Times: "I've always stated that I want to continue to play for Singapore even if I'm no longer a part of the national team. That was what I said from the start, and it's still my hope now."
In Wong's Forum letter ("Time to develop, rejuvenate table-tennis teams"), she largely repeated the STTA's stance from its shock announcement on Oct 25 when it said that it was dropping Feng from the national set-up because the 30-year-old "does not fit into its current plans for rejuvenation".
She explained that "bold moves are needed if we are interested in challenging the top table-tennis nations for honours, and we need to place greater emphasis on the development of our youth".
I'M STAYING PUT
I love Singapore and I love table tennis, and I'm thankful that as a Singaporean, I still have the chance to represent Singapore.
FENG TIANWEI, who still wants to be a part of the team at tournaments despite being dropped from the national set-up.
In his letter "Feng Tianwei's exclusion: Paddler still has much to contribute", Tan had expressed concern that "many countries will surely grab her if she is released from our service".
To which Wong replied by saying that the STTA "cannot stop Feng if she chooses to represent another country".
But yesterday, Feng dismissed any notion that she might switch allegiances and said she fully intends to continue playing for Singapore - at International Table Tennis Federation tournaments and competitions around the world, as well as at major Games.
"I'm a Singaporean, so I will definitely play for Singapore," the Republic's top female paddler said.
"I love Singapore and I love table tennis, and I'm thankful that as a Singaporean, I still have the chance to represent Singapore."
Having made clear that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics remain firmly in her plans, Feng also told ST when she finally broke her silence last Friday that her immediate focus is to reclaim the SEA Games women's singles title next year in Kuala Lumpur. She won golds in 2009 in Vientiane and 2011 in Jakarta.
Feng, however, still requires the STTA's endorsement in order to continue competing in ITTF events. ST understands that talks on the "terms and conditions" of a mutual agreement between the two parties that would allow her to do so are under way.