Table tennis: Feng Tianwei joins Sport S'pore, pursues master's degree overseas at the same time

Feng Tianwei is set to embark on a two-year master's in sport industry management at Peking University. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Feng Tianwei is set to join Sport Singapore as an employee, the national sports agency revealed on Monday.

It announced that the Republic's most bemedalled Olympian and top table tennis player will join its sport development group, working on the development of sport pathways for children and youths, particularly in table tennis.

She is also set to embark on a two-year master's in sport industry management concurrently, at the Physical Education Teaching and Research Department of Peking University.

A spokesman added that she will work part-time, committing approximately eight to 10 hours a week, and her studies will equip her for a wider scope of career opportunities at SportSG in the future.

Feng, who will leave for Beijing at the end of September, said: "Like other high-performance athletes, I have come to a point to transit beyond my playing days. I am very pleased with what I have done for Singapore so far and, it is now time for me to give back to Singapore in a different way.

"I love sport and I do want to understand and learn more about the sport ecosystem beyond being an athlete. I believe that pursuing further studies, on top of my experience as an athlete, will give me a better understanding of the region's sport industry, and there will be more I can offer and contribute to the local sporting fraternity thereafter."

While this move rules her out of the Sept 30-Oct 9 World Team Table Tennis Championships in Chengdu, China, the 36-year-old added she will continue to train at a lower intensity to maintain her fitness, and "if I am given the opportunity, I will continue to represent Singapore".

At the Commonwealth Games in August, The Straits Times reported that Feng could further her studies abroad as she revealed she was mulling retirement.

In the exclusive interview, she shared that she had been suffering from "terrible" heart palpitations after taking a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in January, which halted her practice and halved her training load when she returned to the table.

As such, retirement would be a natural end and not giving up, said the world No. 18.

Feng claimed golds in the women's team, singles and doubles events at the Games in Birmingham as well as the hearts of Singaporeans with her tearful rendition of Majulah Singapura atop the podium after a memorable comeback from 3-0 down in the singles final against compatriot Zeng Jian.

In the same interview, she also committed her future to Singapore when asked if she would remain in the Republic for the long term.

Besides her Commonwealth Games collection which includes nine gold, three silver and one bronze medals, the Harbin-born Feng, who became a Singapore citizen in 2008, also owns three Olympic medals - a team silver from Beijing 2008 and a singles and team bronze from London 2012.

Sandwiched in between is the high point of her career - Singapore's 3-1 victory over the mighty China in the 2010 World Team Table Tennis Championships final, in which she contributed two points.

However, behind the success and glory were injuries and challenges she had to overcome, as the right-hander has had to deal with pain in her right ankle, both knees, waist, shoulder, elbow and playing wrist, in which 70 per cent of the cartilage has worn out and she cannot rotate it.

And she told ST then: "For so many years, my life has revolved around table tennis. There are so many things I have not tried. As age catches up... perhaps it's time I find a new way of life."

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Under SportSG's Sport Excellence framework, there are various schemes to support athletes at different phases of their lives, which include preparing them for their post-sporting career.

SportSG chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin said: "SportSG is always on the lookout for talent with strong sport-DNA to join us. Our Team Singapore current and retiring athletes are obviously part of that talent pool that we can tap on and we are pleased to welcome Tianwei to SportSG, to inspire and design the future of sport.

"Tianwei's interest to deepen her knowledge on Asia's burgeoning sport industry augurs well with SportSG's interests in catalysing and growing industry capability here as Singapore continues to position itself as a premier regional sport hub."

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