Liu has eye on 'most important title' to fulfil Olympic dream

Women's singles world No. 1 Liu Shiwen of China is looking to strike gold at this year's Olympics and complete her medal collection.
Women's singles world No. 1 Liu Shiwen of China is looking to strike gold at this year's Olympics and complete her medal collection.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

One imagines that China's Liu Shiwen, winner of multiple gold medals at the World Table Tennis Championships, World Cup, Asian Championships and Asian Cup, would be pleased with her career haul.

But the world's top-ranked woman paddler is well aware of the one blemish on her otherwise stellar CV - the absence of an Olympic medal. In fact, she has never even competed on the sport's grandest stage. Which is why, with the Rio Games just months away, she is focused on tasting success in Brazil.

"Since I was a kid I've always harboured hopes of winning an Olympic gold. It's definitely my biggest dream as a player," Liu, 24, told The Straits Times yesterday, after China's 3-0 win over Romania.

The Liaoning native, who also does not have a World Championships singles gold, ranks the Olympic gold above all other accolades.

"It's definitely the most important title because the Olympics take place only once every four years. I believe it's the same for most athletes," she said. "The competition to make the China Olympic team is very intense but I will give my all to qualify. I don't want to have any regrets later on in my career."

To qualify for Rio, she has to be among the 11 best players in April's Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in Hong Kong. Each country is limited to a maximum of two entries in the top 11.

If not, she can still make the three-woman team by virtue of the ITTF Olympic Singles Ranking, which she currently tops.

With her ticket to Rio looking secure for now, Liu, who was introduced to the sport by her mother at the age of four, is using the ongoing World Team Championships to study potential rivals.

She singled out Singapore's Feng Tianwei, who beat her in the Asian Cup final last year, as the biggest threat outside of China.

Feng was also responsible for the nadir of Liu's career. The Singaporean beat the Chinese in the deciding fourth singles game at the 2010 World Team Championships to bag a historic gold for Singapore.

As the world No. 1 then, Liu was heavily criticised by the Chinese media as questions were raised about her temperament.

"The defeat was a big setback and definitely had a huge impact on me. We were a young team and it was our first time taking part in the team event. You can say it was a big lesson," said Liu. "But I'm happy that despite all the obstacles, I'm still able to stay at the top. It's not easy and for that, I'm grateful."

Chua Siang Yee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2016, with the headline 'Liu has eye on 'most important title' to fulfil Olympic dream'. Subscribe