Ex-national paddler starts club to groom future champs

Wang Yuegu (right) with her young charges at the Champion Table Tennis Club. The former national paddler, a two-time Olympic medallist, has some 30 young paddlers, aged four to 16 and including top juniors such as national youth team players Yin Jing Yuan and Ryan Goh, under her wing.

SINGAPORE - It may not be the most creative name, but Wang Yuegu sure was clear in her intent when she put on the coaching hat and started the Champion Table Tennis Club.

Not that anyone would expect anything less from the straight-talking former national paddler.

The two-time Olympic medallist, who was also a member of the 2010 World Championship winning team, believes she can help nurture future champions.

"I can't guarantee every player will be a success story," the 33-year-old told The Straits Times at the club's premises in Jalan Pemimpin on Sunday.

"But out of 100, surely there will at least be one? Even if we can't be world champions, surely it's realistic enough to want to be South-east Asia champions?"

Assisted by two coaches, Wang started the club in April with husband Gabriel Lee, who used to coach in Germany.

On Monday, she has some 30 young paddlers - aged four to 16 - under her wing, including some of the top juniors like national youth team players Yin Jing Yuan, 16, and Ryan Goh, 14.

It is believed she is the first national paddler to start a private table tennis club. While others such as Jing Junhong, Cai Xiaoli and Tan Paey Fern have also gone into coaching, they do so with the sport's national body.

Wang aims to start a local competition for young paddlers next year in a bid to help them gain competitive experience.

She said: "There are only a handful of tournaments in Singapore that young players can compete in.

"They need opportunities to compete, or they would just be training without purpose."

Wang also has plans to send players on stints to top training centres in China. In the long run, she even hopes some will get a taste of club-level competitions in Europe.

Her plans, while seemingly bold and structured, were not something she spent years conceiving. In fact, coaching was the last thing on her mind after she hung up her bat after last year's London Olympics.

"I used to say there was no chance I would ever become a coach," she recalled. "It's such a laborious task."

But labour turned to love after coaching stints at Dunman High and Pei Chun Public School.

And, despite a hectic seven-day-week schedule, Wang noted that what she is doing now keeps her very happy.

"There's only ever been table tennis in my life," said Wang, whose career spanned over two decades.

"It's impossible to just remove it from my life completely."

But while she affectionately calls her young charges "darlings" and hands out chocolates in between training, she knows her uncompromising approach when it comes to the sport can be scary.

Requests for autographs or pictures while she coaches at either school, for instance, are not entertained. Her response: "I'm just a school coach, not a famous player."

Wang has even - on more than a few occasions - sent home students who do not meet her expectations.

She said: "People often tell me not to demand of my players what I've been used to in the national team.

"They tell me that I should lower my expectations. But why should I?

"I take my work very seriously. If my students want to come to train, then I expect them to train seriously."

Spoken like a true champion indeed.


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