Badminton: Yao quits as she's lost passion

Badminton: Yao quits as she's lost passion
Singapore shuttlers Shinta Mulia Sari and Yao Lei react during their women's doubles group stage match against Japan's Fujii Mizuki and Kakiiwa Reika at the London Olympics on 30 July 2012.

Asian Games were her swan-song, she will study in Suzhou to be an athletic trainer Shuttler Yao Lei has played her last match as a national athlete, hanging up her racket in exchange for books.

While still considered young and relatively free of major injuries, the 24-year-old China-born player cited a lack of personal drive as the reason for her early retirement.

Already enrolled as an athletic training undergraduate at Soochow University, two hours' drive from her home town in Jiangsu province, she revealed she has struggled to make the decision since competing at the London Olympics in 2012.

"I feel like I no longer have the same kind of drive as before," she told The Sunday Times.

"For me, there isn't much meaning in continuing as an athlete if that's the case - as much as I still enjoy playing."

She was due for classes which started early this month but chose to go for one last hurrah on the court at the quadrennial Asiad. Yao teamed up with Shinta Mulia Sari in the women's doubles where they lost in the round of 32, and later made the last 16 in the mixed doubles with Chayut Triyachart.

She has no major regrets in a career that has included many firsts for Singapore. Yao, a doubles specialist who came to Singapore under the Foreign Sports Talent scheme in 2003, paired up with Fu Mingtian to win Singapore's first world junior title when they lifted the girls' doubles trophy in 2008. She partnered Shinta to win the 2010 Singapore Open title, the Republic's first triumph at a Badminton World Federation Super Series event.

Still, she could not help but be overwhelmed by emotions as she spoke about closing this chapter - especially after weathering the storms of 2013 with the team.

The national team, recovering from a dismal season last year, landed two silvers (men's singles, men's doubles) and a long-awaited mixed team bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this year.

Said Yao who leaves for China early next month: "Retirement is inevitable for any athlete but it doesn't make it any easier to say goodbye because you still love the sport. Training was very tough, and even when you lose matches, those are still things to be treasured because they are what help you improve and mature.

"No matter what, I remain grateful to the Singapore Badminton Association for grooming and investing in me, and I am more than happy to make myself available should they need me in the future."

This article was first published on September 28, 2014.
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