Table tennis: Teenage paddler to train full-time

Gerald Yu (left) and Goi Rui Xian in action during the Asean School Games' Table Tennis Mixed Doubles Finals at Toa Payoh Sports Hall on July 17, 2017.
Gerald Yu (left) and Goi Rui Xian in action during the Asean School Games' Table Tennis Mixed Doubles Finals at Toa Payoh Sports Hall on July 17, 2017.PHOTO: ST FILE

Goi Rui Xuan puts poly on hold to work towards getting into the YOG and SEA Games squads

SINGAPORE - She was only nine when the Miracle in Moscow happened.

In 2010, Singapore's women's national table tennis team of Feng Tianwei, Li Jiawei, Yu Mengyu, Wang Yuegu and Sun Beibei beat world powerhouses China 3-1 to win the World Team Table Tennis Championships.

The historic triumph - China had won eight straight team titles before the shock loss - sparked a desire in Goi Rui Xuan to follow in their footsteps.

"There used to be a video screen near the McDonald's outlet in Kallang, and they used to replay scenes of Feng Tianwei celebrating that victory," the teenager, who turns 17 next month, told The Straits Times yesterday at the Singapore Sports School (SSP).

"Every time I passed by, I could feel (her joy) and imagine myself (in her shoes)."

The National Intermediate Squad (NIS) paddler took a crucial step towards achieving that dream this year when she chose to train full-time instead of continuing with her studies.

Rui Xuan had completed four years at SSP and was part of the School Within a School (SWS) programme, but deferred the start of her Republic Polytechnic Sports and Leisure Management diploma studies, which is part of SSP's through-train scheme, for at least two years.

She is the first SWS paddler to go down this route at this age.

Fellow SSP alumni Clarence Chew and Isabelle Li juggled table tennis and studies, and trained full-time at a later age.

"From the time I was young, I already had the intention to train full-time and the opportunity came up, so I chose (to go full-time)," said Rui Xuan, who picked up the sport at the age of eight.

"It was not a very hard decision, I am still very young and I can still study after that (my sports career). My parents support me, they don't mind that I try out sports first."

Her father, Goi Hoe Gee, 54, said: "It was an easy decision to allow Rui Xuan to go for full-time training and this is the right time to do it. As for her studies, there will be plenty of time for her to study in future.

"The only concern is that she has to go through a very tough and challenging journey."

Rui Xuan has excelled in local competitions in recent years - she won the women's singles and girls' 18 and under titles at the Dr Ng Eng Hen Cup-Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) Championships and Dr Lee Bee Wah Cup-STTA Championships last year.

Rui Xuan will follow the NIS' competition schedule and her expenses will be borne by her parents, but the STTA is also looking into providing training support for her. She flew off to Chinese Taipei early this morning to join the national team for centralised training.

"I am hoping to qualify for the YOG (Youth Olympic Games in Argentina in October), and try to get into the SEA Games team next year," she said.

Former national paddler Sun, who is now the SWS' women's coach, said Rui Xuan is blazing a trail for others, but advised her that the path will not be smooth.

"There are a lot of things that she needs to improve on, such as changes in rhythm on court and the ability to bounce back from defeats," said the 33-year-old.

"How far she can go will depend on how hard she works and what she wants to achieve."