Team Singapore

Her sacrifice pays off

Rui Xuan's reward for postponing her studies is the YOG, but it also means missing granny's birthday

Pouring countless hours into the sport has reaped rewards for paddler Goi Rui Xuan as she booked her berth at October's Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games (YOG), but her achievement has not come without its sacrifices.

When the national intermediate paddler flies off to Zhengding, China, this weekend for two weeks of centralised training ahead of next month's South-east Asian Junior Championships, she will miss her grandmother's birthday.

She said: "The day after we fly is my grandma's birthday so, this year, I'll not be able to spend time with her.

"She's actually quite sad."

But the 17-year-old tries to make up for missing out on these significant moments by making sure that she spends whatever time she can with them.

To realise her YOG dream, she deferred the start of her Republic Polytechnic sports and leisure management diploma studies at the beginning of this year for at least two years to commit herself fully to table tennis.

The move paid off when she qualified for the YOG after she won the qualification tournament in Asuncion, Paraguay, in April.

Often I would always doubt if I could do it. Because I’ve trained a lot, I feel that I am quite well prepared for it.Goi Rui Xuan, on how she overcame a lack of confidence

Rui Xuan has her sights set on making it to at least the singles quarter-finals in Argentina, saying: "It's another step up and a recognition that my past few years of training have worked out.

"It's a good opportunity for me to compete at a higher level and a world stage, and hopefully do my country and family proud."

She will also be participating in the mixed team event with Koen Pang, 16.

Koen earned his ticket to the YOG after winning the qualification tournament in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, last Saturday.

He will also be representing Singapore in the men's singles event.

Rui Xuan believes that her break from school has been helpful in her development as a player, noting an increased feeling of self-belief as the biggest change to her game.

A lack of confidence was something that had hindered her progress, but the success and exposure that she has gained over the last few months have helped with that.

She said: "Often I would always doubt if I could do it. Because I've trained a lot, I feel that I am quite well prepared for it.

"I train more intensely and for longer hours, so the drill of my training helps me to improve my skill. After going for a few competitions, my confidence level has become better."

Not having to juggle school on the side has also given her proper rest time, as she saddles two training sessions daily on weekdays and one session on Saturday.

Even on her days off, Rui Xuan trains by herself at a community centre.

Her table tennis dreams were bolstered when she was awarded $5,000 under the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship Under-18 High-Performance category.

The money helps to cover the costs required for meals, transport, equipment and nutritional supplements.

But she feels that she still needs to polish certain aspects of her game, like speed and rhythm, if she is to make her quarter-final target a reality.

She sees the South-east Asian Junior Championships as an important stepping stone for the YOG, saying: "I have to treat every match like I'm playing in the YOG.

"Every match is very important, so I have to treat every day's training seriously as if I'm playing in the YOG."