GIVING HER BEST SHOT AT TABLE TENNIS

GIVING HER BEST SHOT AT TABLE TENNIS

Wong Xin Ru (left) with her Team Singapore doubles partner Zhou Jingyi at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

(PHOTOS COURTESY OF SINGAPORE TABLE TENNIS ASSOCIATION)

From serving as a volunteer at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in 2015, Team Singapore table tennis player Wong Xin Ru has made her mark competitively in that regional sporting event, as well as in the international arena. 

The full-time athlete, who turns 22 this year, took home the joint bronze medal in women’s doubles in the 2019 SEA Games, followed by gold in mixed doubles and silver as part of the women’s team at the 2021 edition. She continued her winning streak with a women’s team gold at last year’s Commonwealth Games. 

Now, Xin Ru is setting her sights on an achievement closer to home: the Singapore Smash 2023, taking place between 11 and 19 March at the OCBC Arena. The tentpole event by World Table Tennis features top global players going up against each other to win 2,000 ranking points and US$2 million in prize money. 

Amid her busy training schedule, Xin Ru took time out to share with Here to Play more about her passion for table tennis, what keeps her going and why more young Singaporeans should give their sporting ambitions their best shot. 

How did you develop your fondness for table tennis? 
My father introduced me to the sport when I was eight years old, and my brother and I practised together. But I dislike table tennis then because of the long hours of practice and tough training sessions. However, the agony of losing always motivated me to train longer and harder. Eventually, I found myself enjoying the game, as well as the process of working hard and seeing myself improve and grow as an athlete.

What’s your training regimen like? 
I train six hours a day, spread between morning and afternoon. In total, it’s around 36 hours a week. My training consists of on-court technical and tactical training, as well as strength and conditioning training in the gym. 

What has participating in international competitions taught you? 
They have exposed me to different playing styles, techniques and external influences like audience cheers and jeers, as well as emotional and pressure management. Whenever my mind is filled with negative thoughts like “What happens if I lose?” or “I can’t be losing”, it affects my performance. I become too occupied about thinking of consequences instead of focusing on the match and which tactics to use. So, apart from technical and tactical gains, one major takeaway from international events, such as the SEA Games and Commonwealth Games, is to just be in the moment, focus on the game, and enjoy the process. 

Wong Xin Ru with her Team Singapore teammates when they won the team gold at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

What do you hope to achieve at Singapore Smash 2023? 
I hope to do better than last year. Singapore Smash is a competition where elite players from all over the world assemble – everyone is world-class and tough to beat. It will be a great learning experience for me regardless of who I’m playing against. Hopefully, I’ll be able to take away a thing or two, in preparation for the upcoming SEA Games (in May) and Asian Games (in September). 

Even the most dedicated athletes have to “take five” once in a while. Outside of table tennis, what are your hobbies and interests? 
As I spend most of my time in the training hall practising, I like to watch dramas and variety shows during my free time as a form of relaxation and entertainment. I also enjoy shopping at malls for clothes and beauty products. 

Being a full-time athlete isn’t easy. What keeps you going during tough times? 
My family and friends are always supportive, and constantly affirm and encourage me. When I feel down and doubt myself, there are always people who give me strength and confidence through their words or actions. This makes me feel better.

In your opinion, why should young Singaporeans pursue their sporting dreams? 
Young Singaporeans should not be afraid to dream and never hesitate to pursue their sporting aspirations. This is because our established sports ecosystem provides sportsmen and sportswomen with fair and adequate support from their respective sporting organisations. Educational institutions are increasingly supportive of local athletes as well. Some offer more flexible schedules, post-career educational opportunities and many other forms of assistance. 

It’s inspiring that young Singaporeans have role models like you to look up to. What are some qualities that sport has developed in you? 
Resilience is one of the many qualities table tennis has instilled in me. Everyone has ups and downs, and this means experiencing stress and emotional upheaval. For example, as an athlete, I may already put in my best effort during training, but still lose matches. However, resilience develops through the repeated process of overcoming these challenges and working through setbacks.

What are your sporting goals for the near future? 
I hope to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympics and win a medal for Singapore!

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