Team Singapore

Paddler Isabelle on the comeback trail

She won a silver medal at the inaugural Youth Olympics on home soil in 2010 and was touted as a potential world-beater.

Today, Singapore table tennis player Isabelle Li doesn't even have a world ranking.

The 21-year-old has been suffering from a knee injury since March last year, and played through the pain at the 2015 South-east Asia (SEA) Games at home, where she was knocked out of the women's singles competition at the group stage.

The defensive specialist, who won the silver medal at the 2011 and 2013 editions of the biennial Games, has not played a single tournament since last year's SEA Games, and will make a return at the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

Players are removed from the International Table Tennis Federation's world ranking lists if they are not active in competitions for three straight months.

"I am just going out there to enjoy my game and try my best, at the same time trying to make sure that my injury is well managed," said Li yesterday.

Injuries to both her knees have limited her time on court.

Once she used to be able to finish three-hour training sessions, but now she has to limit them to one or two hours.

"Once I hit a certain amount of training time, the injury works up and I go back to square one, so I have to manage that really carefully," said Li, who has been going for physiotherapy and strength and conditioning exercises.

She resumed training only early last month.

She has also been kept busy with school work - the Singapore Sports School alumnus received the Public Service Commission scholarship and started her liberal arts course at the Yale-National University of Singapore college last year.

On whether table tennis will take a back seat now, Li said: "I make my decisions based on also the training environment, and my school workload.

"I guess it's too early to say; one of the main things that got me out of training was really my injuries, so if I can't get back to that physical fitness, I might consider (my options)."

- LIM SAY HENG

Isabelle LiSEA Games