‘I didn’t come here for the money’

Wang Yuegu during the victory parade (Yahoo! photo)Wang Yuegu during the victory parade (Yahoo! photo)

Singapore paddler Wang Yuegu may have called time on her glittering table-tennis career, but her love affair with Singapore is set to continue.

"I didn't come here for the money but for the love of the sport," said the 32-year-old Olympic silver and bronze medallist in a phone interview with The Straits Times on Wednesday to announce her decision to retire.

"Not everyone that comes from China hangs around for the money. I hate it when people keep associating medals for money," she added, in reference to the perpetual thorny debate over Singapore sport's foreign talent scheme.

Hinting at her future plans, she said, "No matter where life takes me, I'll always return to Singapore. I want my first child to be born here too," said the China-born native, whose Taiwanese husband is based in Germany.

The Liaoning native, who Yahoo! Singapore understands owns a condo in Bishan, became a Singapore citizen in 2007.  She helped the Republic end a 48-year wait for a Olympic medal after winning silver in the women's team event at the 2008 Beijing Games.

The world no.10 added to her collection last month, clinching the bronze medal in the same event at the London Games, together with her 2008 team-mates Li Jiawei and Feng Tianwei.

Under the country's multi-million dollar award programme (MAP), gold medal winners in the team event are awarded S$1.5 million, silver S$750,000 and bronze S$375,000.

Her two Olympic medals are worth S$375,000 after splitting the MAP rewards with her team-mates. Another 20 per cent will also be ploughed back into the table-tennis association for  training and youth development.

In announcing her decision to hang up her bat after a 20-year career, she told ST, "It's the right time to leave. I'm getting old, I've been injured, and I've a family now. It's time to give our youth paddlers a chance."

When contacted by Yahoo! Singapore, Singapore's Table-Tennis Association (STTA) seemed to be caught off-guard by Wang's decision, and could not confirm her decision.

Speculation surrounded the future of Singapore's London Games table-tennis team after their return.

While Feng Tianwei is still relatively young at 25, but another of the Republic's stalwarts, Li, is 31. She gave birth to a baby boy in 2009 after her marriage to Chinese businessman Li Chao a year earlier.

Local table tennis fan, 19-year-old student Shauna Lim, is not surprised by her retirement.

She said, "I think we could all see it coming given her age and the Olympic medals she has already won. It's time for the likes of Li Jiawei and herself to hang up their bats to give younger paddlers more opportunity on the big stage."

It remains to be seen if Wang continues living in Singapore after her retirement. But Singaporean Wu Junxiang will not begrudge her even if she moves out of the Republic.

He said, "To be honest I would expect her to stay here to coach the next generation. But I wouldn't be surprised and upset if she returns to China. I don't think the China-born players are proud to be Singaporeans anyway."