SINGAPORE — After winning the hearts of fans with her spirited Tokyo Olympics showing last year, Yu Mengyu felt that she had come to a satisfactory end to her 16-year table tennis career in Singapore.
It was on this positive note that the 32-year-old announced that she is retiring from the national squad during the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) Annual Awards ceremony at the Sport Singapore auditorium on Tuesday (22 March).
Yu will still be involved with local table tennis, as she will take on an assistant coaching job with STTA's junior development squad, imparting her skills and knowledge to young paddlers aged nine to 12.
"I've been thinking about my future after my playing career even before the Tokyo Olympics, and coaching seemed to be the most ideal step for me to take," she said after winning the STTA Star Player of the Year award for her fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Games.
"The Tokyo Games was a very memorable experience for me as I gave my all, but it also showed me that my past injuries would keep me from going any further. So it's time for me to step down, and help groom the next generation of Singapore paddlers."
Yu had been battling debilitating injuries in the months before the Tokyo Olympics, but the then-world No.47 put on a stellar showing in the women's singles event as she defeated world No.8 Cheng I-ching of Taiwan and world No.10 Kasumi Ishikawa of Japan en route to the semi-finals.
While she eventually lost to world No.1 Chen Meng and world No.3 Mima Ito to miss out on a medal, her battling performances earned plaudits from the Singapore fans, finally giving her the spotlight after years in the shadows of her more illustrious compatriots Feng Tianwei and Li Jiawei.
As an appreciation for Yu's career achievements, STTA handed her a $29,752 cheque as her "retirement fund". The money was her share of a donation drive by the association following the 2010 World Team Championships gold medal won by the national women's team, which Yu had been a part of.
Other winners at the STTA Annual Awards
The STTA Young Player of the Year award went to 15-year-old Izaac Quek, who reached world No.1 in the Under-15 boys' world ranking in April last year, and won two bronze medals at the ITTF World Youth Championships last December.
Meanwhile, men's senior team paddler Clarence Chew earned the Special Award (Senior Category) after becoming the first Singapore-born male paddler to qualify for the Olympic men's singles competition last year. Ser Lin Qian, 16, was awarded the Special Award (Junior Category) for winning a bronze medal in the U-15 girls' singles event at the World Youth Championships.
National women's team coach Hao Anlin won the Coach of the Year honour for guiding the senior team to the quarter-finals at the Tokyo Games, while men's team coach Gao Ning earned the Special Award (Senior Category) for guiding Chew to Olympic qualification.
STTA president Ellen Lee paid tribute to the players, coaches and officials who had persevered through the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in the past two years.
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