Not fully fit but still full of hope
Despite battling injuries and illnesses, paddler Yu vows to do Singapore proud at SEA Games
She has won eight gold medals from four SEA Games since making her debut in 2007.
With her experience competing in tournaments such as the World Championships and the Olympics, one would think that Yu Mengyu's preparations for the upcoming SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur would be a breeze.
But it has been anything but that for the world No. 33 women's singles player thus far.
"This has been the most difficult lead-up to the SEA Games I've experienced," Yu told The New Paper on the sidelines of the SEA Games team's presentation at the Singapore Table Tennis Association's (STTA) Toa Payoh headquarters yesterday.
"I was out of competition for about eight months and faced difficulties during the recovery period.
"I am still overcoming some difficulties during preparations for the SEA Games, in terms of injuries and illnesses, so I'd try my best at the Games."
Yu underwent shoulder surgery last November, and returned to competition only in April this year.
While Yu, who turns 28 later this month, previously said that she needed to get used to various things - from basic strokes to state of mind.
On court, she still managed to win a bronze medal with Feng Tianwei in the women's doubles at the World Table Tennis Championships in Germany in June.
And, while Yu is still not 100 per cent fit - her right arm was wrapped in a compression bandage yesterday - the 2013 SEA Games women's singles gold medallist has high hopes for herself and her team at the upcoming Games.
She said: "I hope we can bring home the gold medals at this SEA Games, I am most confident of the (women's) team event.
"We lost the singles gold at the last SEA Games, but now we will use new balls, among other things, so it's a new starting point and we are very confident of bringing back this gold medal."
Thailand's Suthasini Sawettabut clinched the women's singles title in Singapore two years ago to prevent the Republic's paddlers from making a clean sweep in the seven events.
Yu, and her women's doubles teammate Feng Tianwei, will be competing in the women's singles in KL this year.
World No. 6 Feng was absent during the team presentation, as she was in Johor Baru, competing in the T2Apac competition.
But, the triple Olympic medallist has been joining the SEA Games team in training "once or twice" a week for women's doubles training, Yu said.
On medal expectations, STTA president Ellen Lee said: "My own expectations is that they'd be able to take everything out there, but I don't think that is very realistic.
"We are expecting our opponents to do much better than they had done... some of our players may encounter injuries during the process as well.
"We do not want to be over optimistic to say that we will win all the golds."
The paddlers are in the midst of a month-long centralised training stint here, with more than 10 sparring partners brought in.
The training partners hail from Europe, Taiwan and China, and includes Ukraine's men's world No. 28 Kou Lei and Belarusian world No. 10 Vladimir Samsonov.
Lee said: "We have been giving them all the opportunities and all the necessary training. So you want to see a certain return as well."