S’pore’s Isabelle Li’s out to make a name for herself at the SEA Games

REPORTING FROM JAKARTA

She may only be 16 years old and one of the youngest paddlers representing Singapore at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, but Isabelle Li has her work cut out for her at the Games.

After Singapore Table Tennis Association president Lee Bee Wah tussled hard for her placement in Singapore’s SEA Games line-up, Li is now working very hard to earn and prove her stripes among the nation’s star paddlers, many of whom are China-born.

Despite the controversy that has surrounded Li’s entry into the Games, she is not fazed and remains focused on her goal: making it as far as possible in the women’s singles tournament.

“As an athlete, you learn to block out all these things and focus on preparing for the events,” said Li, who clinched a silver medal at last year’s Youth Olympic Games.

Initially juggling her sports management course in Republic Polytechnic with practice sessions, Li took a three-month leave of absence to train full-time for the Games.

“Compared to the others, she had extremely little time to train,” said national head coach and table tennis veteran Zhou Shusen. “Watching her play, I can tell that she truly is a gifted individual,” he added.

“She is very focused on her goals, and is a very passionate player,” added deputy head coach Jing Jun Hong, also a seasoned former Olympic player.

After winning her first group stage match against the Philippines, Li has two more games to play before being able to advance to the semifinals.

“She’s played well so far, and I’m very satisfied with her performance today,” said Jing. “I hope she will perform to her standard tomorrow (Tuesday), that’s the most important thing for me.”

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