Sky's the limit for Jingyi
Buoyed by recent wins, young paddler dreams of playing for national team one day
At an age where most of her peers would already have their hands full preparing for their Primary School Leaving Examination, Zhou Jingyi is busy chasing her table tennis dream.
The 12-year-old pupil had to miss over two weeks of school to compete overseas recently and she took the chance to demonstrate why she is one of Singapore's top young paddlers.
After winning the Under-12 singles title at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Asia Hopes Follow Up Camp and Challenge in Bangkok earlier this month, she followed it up with another triumph last Sunday - beating 11-year-old compatriot Ser Lin Qian 3-1 in the final of the ITTF Thailand Junior and Cadet Open.
The two wins secured her a place in the by-invitation-only ITTF Hopes Week and Challenge in Luxembourg in August.
Jingyi seeks inspiration from her idol and Olympic medallist Feng Tianwei and hopes to represent the Republic at major competitions one day.
She said: "I want to get into the national team (one day).
"I want to represent Singapore at the Olympics and do everyone proud."
Her potential and fine performances have also earned her a spot in the Youth Training Squad (YTS) under the Singapore Table Tennis Association, which is typically for those aged 13 to 18.
While it increases the demand on her young body, Jingyi is taking it all in her stride.
I want to represent Singapore at the Olympics and do everyone proud.Youth paddler Zhou Jingyi
She said the flexibility of the training programme allows trainees to plan their time.
She said: "We train (at YTS) four times a week, although our coach gives us freedom to plan the days we want to go for, depending on our study schedule."
Despite her hectic schedule, she has done a good job juggling studies and sports.
Jingyi, who also excels in piano and ballet, is in the Gifted Education Programme at Nanyang Primary School, which means she has to take extra classes such as history and other supplementary lessons.
Although she missed her Semestral Assessment 1 examination due to the tournaments, she had her grades computed based on her daily work and projects instead. She hopes to enrol in the Singapore Sports School after her PSLE.
Her coach, Tan Paey Fern, believes that Jingyi possesses the potential to go far in the sport.
Said the 43-year-old: "She has a strong backhand, and a very good sense of the game.
"During competitions, she has an outstanding ability to make judgments and keep a grip on her emotions.
"Compared to other girls her age, she takes much more initiative and may even be on the same level as her male counterparts."
When asked if she saw any similarities between Jingyi and her idol Feng, Tan said: "They have the same tenacious, persistent spirit.
"They are both very dedicated to the sport and they love the game.
"But, there is still much room for development (for Jingyi)."