SINGAPORE - She left the future of her career up in the air when she took time off to start a family, but table tennis player Sun Beibei is now ready to make a comeback.
And with an eye on next year's Commonwealth and Asian Games, World Championships, and even the 2016 Olympics, the 29-year-old has adopted a no-nonsense approach.
She resumed training less than four months after giving birth to a daughter at the end of June, and has been training daily - including thrice-weekly solo sessions with a fitness trainer.
"I think I'm training even harder now than I was before," Sun told The Straits Times at the Singapore Table Tennis Association's headquarters in Toa Payoh.
It means sacrificing precious time with her six-month-old, with whom she spends less than an hour every day.
"I wasn't sure if I would still compete after giving birth because I didn't know what my physical state would be like," she said.
"It was a gradual decision to return to the sport. My physical condition was okay, I felt I wanted to play, and the team are also in need of experienced players."
But while the decision came easily to Sun, getting back into action was an uphill battle for her - especially after putting on 17kg during her pregnancy.
The Shandong native still had her speed and her touch, but a year out of competition meant her fitness levels had suffered.
"My knees and legs couldn't take the weight of my body, which was in pain for a whole month," she said. "But I persisted until the pain gradually subsided."
She has since shed 16kg, and intends to continue working on getting fitter before she is scheduled to compete at the Kuwait Open in February.
"My thinking has changed since becoming a mother. I'm a little more mature, and I feel more responsible," she said.
"I want to set a good example for my daughter, even though she's still very young, that I put my all into whatever I do."
Sun was a member of the team that beat China for the world team title in 2010, and her individual world ranking was as high as No. 14 (2008), although being out of action means she has since slipped to No. 70.
Her return to competitive action is a shot in the arm for the national women's side, given the retirements of stalwarts Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu after the London Olympics last year.
Said women's head coach Jing Junhong: "The return of an experienced senior player is bound to give the younger ones motivation and it's a boost of strength for the team.
"But Sun is also aware that she has to earn her place on the squad just like everyone else."
Said Sun, who first joined the team in 2004: "I hope my return will help give the team some stability, help the younger players feel a bit more secure and give them confidence in our team."
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