Mum's word was final for Feng
Armed with a lesson in discipline, world No. 4 Feng set to rule at SEA Games
Most people are familiar with table tennis star Feng Tianwei's never-say-die spirit.
They also know how close she is to her mother, Li Chunping.
Mum will be cheering her daughter on as she leads the hosts' paddlers on an expected gold-medal charge at the Singapore Indoor Stadium during next month's South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
Few know, though, that Feng, the world No. 4, used to be scared of mum as a child.
In a video shoot commissioned by the Singapore Table Tennis Association recently, the 28-year-old said: "We are like friends these days but, when I was young, I used to be scared of her; she was strict and would spank me if I was naughty."
She recalled one incident when she was around 14 and a newcomer in the Harbin provincial team.
"At the time, I wasn't too serious yet, I would just play and not work seriously improve in my game," the three-time Olympic medallist recounted.
"My parents moved and rented a place near my dormitory and training centre to keep an eye on me, which I felt was quite suffocating actually.
"My mother would wake me up just after 6am to train, but it is very, very cold at that time in Harbin and one day I skipped training.
"She banged furiously at my door and punished me after that.
"After all these years, I realise that it's not the training that she was so particular about, but the discipline she wanted me to build up."
Li and her late husband Feng Qingzhi were not well to do, and worked two shifts to pay for their only child's training and competition expenses.
Feng's father, a granary worker, died in 2002 when she was 16, after suffering from multiple sclerosis for two years.
"With the province team, we got to go home once a week, but one day, my coach suddenly told me to rush home immediately," she said.
"My father had been very sick for about a week, but my mother did not tell me because she wanted me to focus on training.
"As I was rushing up the stairs, I heard neighbours saying that someone who was rather young was dying soon.
"When I heard that, I felt that my head was going to explode. My mum told me later that he wanted to see me one last time before he died."
Grief-stricken, Feng did not pick up a table tennis bat and train. But, 20 days later, she managed to win the Chinese National Youth Championships and was admitted to the national youth team.
She made it to China's national B team, but moved to Japan in 2005 after seeing little progress.
In Japan, she was spotted and recruited by former Singapore coach Liu Guodong.
It took a while for Feng to adjust to life here, but the 2010 team world champion and Olympic star is very much home now.
"At first I was not too used to it, the customs are very different here, but I am used to it now," said Feng, who stays with her mother.
"In the past, 'going home' would mean a visit back to China but, these days, that would be coming back to Singapore. When I am overseas for too long these days, I will yearn to come back here.
"I have some Singapore-born friends here who I hang out with and share my feelings with, so I feel that I have integrated well."
In the past, ‘going home’ would mean a visit back to China but, these days, that would be coming back to Singapore. When I am overseas for too long these days, I will yearn to come back here.
— Feng Tianwei
Worn knees a weighty issue for Tianwei
GRIT: Feng was playing through the pain barrier at the Asian Games last year. - PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES
The journey towards a medal is always fuelled by hard training and discipline, and often pain as well.
In table tennnis star Feng Tianwei's case, pain was a major feature of her Incheon Asian Games campaign last year, when she clinched a joint-bronze in the women's singles, and was part of the women's team that finished joint-third.
Recalling her experience, the 28-year-old said: "After each match, my knees swelled up and I needed to ice them for about 15 minutes each time to get the swelling down.
"The cartilage in my knees are worn out and the doctors have said they won't grow back.
"I take injections to lubricate my knees at times, but it is still very difficult."
Her knees are no longer strong enough to withstand a hectic competition schedule and, with no long-term solution available, the world No. 4 decided to cut down her weight after the Asiad last year, even though it was "normal".
"The doctor didn't say I needed to lose weight, but I felt that I needed to do that because it would reduce the pressure on my knees," said the triple Olympic medallist.
She lost four to five kilogrammes over two months last year, subsisting on yoghurt and home-made salads, and cutting down on meat, as well as favourite dishes like hot pot.
"It was very difficult at first, there was one night where I dreamt that I ate 40 buns," she said. "Of course, losing weight is one thing, maintaining it another."
Name: Feng Tianwei
Born: Aug 31, 1986
Place of birth: Harbin, China
Highest world ranking: 2
- 2008: Team silver
- 2012: Singles and team bronze
- 2008: Team silver
- 2010: Team gold
- 2012: Team silver
- 2009: Team silver
- 2010: Team silver
- 2015: Singles gold
- 2010: Team silver
- 2014: Singles and team bronze
- 2010: Singles and team gold
- 2014: Singles, doubles and team gold
Days to go: 16
The Ferrari Owners' Club Singapore (FOCS) was formed in 1999 to bring together like-minded owners who share their passion for the prancing horse.
The FOCS family has grown in numbers and forged a strong bond throughout the years.
This year, the club celebrates its 16th anniversary and the nation's Jubilee by taking part in the countdown to the 28th SEA Games.
The number 16 was formed using 71 Ferrari race cars at the Marina Bay Floating Platform, against Singapore's iconic backdrop of the Marina Bay Sands and the financial district.
The closing ceremony will be held on June 16, when Singapore hands over the torch to 2017 hosts Malaysia.
Chief Artillery Officer Colonel Lawrence Lim (left) is the SEA Games Opening and Closing Ceremony's (OCC) chairman, and he will work with OCC creative director Beatrice Chia-Richmond (middle) and Singsoc executive committee chairman Lim Teck Yin to deliver a spectacular show.
A total of 40,000 Supporters' Medallions - which measure 6cm in diameter with a 7cm ribbon strap - will also be handed out at the closing ceremony.
- DAVID LEE