One last hurrah for paddler Gao Ning
China-born paddler, who will take up a coaching role after the Asiad, sets q-final target in men's singles
Paddler Gao Ning may be calling time on his playing career, but he will depart with few regrets.
The 35-year-old player-coach will move on to a full-time coaching role with the national team, following his final competitive appearance at the Asian Games, which start tomorrow in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Since arriving 14 years ago under the Foreign Sports Talent Scheme, the China-born Gao has had a glittering career. He won 11 golds, five silvers and one bronze in five South-east Asia Games.
One of his proudest moments came when he secured the men's doubles bronze at the last Asiad in Incheon.
With such a sparkling record, there is real pressure for Gao to exit on a high. But the veteran insists that he enters the Asiad with little to prove.
He said: "Regrets I've had - you can't help it that happens with any competitive sport.
"But all that I have needed to achieve I have done so, and for the most part I'm satisfied. "
For table tennis enthusiasts, such words may seem at odds with the man's aggressive style of play.
Regrets I've had - you can't help it that happens with any competitive sport.Gao Ning, who will be calling tim e on his playing career after the Asiad
But they are in keeping with his stoic nature, with his muted celebration following a hard- fought Commonwealth Games victory in the mixed doubles final in April testament to his self-restraint.
Over the next two weeks, the current world No. 65 will be competing against powerhouses like China and Japan in the men's singles and mixed doubles events.
He will enter the Asiad on a high, having won gold in both events at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
The mixed doubles event will see him reunited with Yu Mengyu, with the two striking up a formidable partnership to rule the event on the Gold Coast in April.
But Gao remains coy on his medal chances, saying: "The level at the Commonwealth Games is very different from the Asian Games.
"Every opponent i s difficult. I hope to reach at least the quarter-final for the men's singles, but in the end representing Singapore will be the biggest honour."
END OF AN ERA
He will be Singapore's only male representative in the six-strong table tennis contingent, with the men's team failing to qualify following a poor showing at the Commonwealth Games.
Gao's imminent departure will mark the end of an era for the men's national team, with former paddlers Zhan Jian, Yang Zi, Li Hu and Pang Xue Jie having left the sport in recent years.
Gao hopes to inspire the next generation with his Asiad performance, saying: "One message I have for our younger players is to be ambitious.
"I hope that the next generation of players can see our indomitable spirit on the court. Hopefully, that will inspire them to not just stay in Singapore, but also go on to compete on the world stage."