Shuttler Fu switches from player to coach
She captured the imagination of local sports fans in 2011, when she won Singapore's first-ever badminton women's singles gold at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Jakarta.
Fu Mingtian, who was also the first shuttler to win the Sportswoman of the Year accolade the following year, then switched to doubles in 2013, and finished out of the medals at the Myanmar SEA Games that year.
The 24-year-old will take on yet another role when Singapore hosts the biennial sports extravaganza in June.
Instead of chasing after shuttles and performing splits on the court, she will be analysing play and dishing out pointers to the players from the sidelines, as an assistant coach in the singles team.
In an interview with The New Paper at the Singapore Badminton Association's (SBA) new home at the OCBC Arena yesterday, Fu said: "The change was due to personal considerations; I felt that I wasn't making any breakthrough and did not have much motivation to play any more.
"At the same time, SBA had some plans for me, so we were in discussions in September last year and I started working as a coach in October," said the Hubei native, whose last tournament was last August's world championships in Denmark.
She joins her peers such as Ashton Chen, Terry Yeo, Yao Lei and Gu Juan, who also retired last year, but is the only one to remain in the national set-up.
"I was totally focused on improving my game when I was still playing, and hadn't thought about my post-playing plans," said Fu, who earned a diploma in business from the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce last year.
"Coaching is something that came along recently and, while I considered other options, I have decided to take this up.
"How long will I be doing this? I don't know, but this is my choice now and I want to do it well."
The transition from playing to coaching took her a while to get used to, though.
She said: "At first, it was a little awkward because the likes of Derek (Wong) and (Chen) Jiayuan were formerly my teammates and we would train together.
"Now I am in a different position and would need to look at them from a coach's perspective."
She is learning the ropes from head coach Liu Qingdong, as well as coaches in the singles team such as Liu Fan and Kelvin Ho, and has already travelled overseas for two competitions in her new role.
Fu said: "In the past, I would just need to focus on playing well, but now I am getting used to looking after several players, as well as administrative stuff like bus and playing schedules during tournaments."
Head coach Liu said: "Mingtian has great potential to be a coach although she is relatively new.
"She can relate to the players easily as she is closer to their age.
"More importantly, she can share her experience from taking part in major competitions, and winning the SEA Games, with the younger players.
"This will provide them with added motivation to train hard and do well for Singapore."
“Mingtian has great potential to be a coach although she is relatively new. She can relate to the players easily as she is closer to their age. More importantly, she can share her experience from taking part in major competitions, and winning the SEA Games, with the younger players.”
- Head coach Liu Qingdong, on Fu Mingtian