Singapore paddler Zhou Jingyi, 19, is going to the Olympics, Latest Team Singapore News - The New Paper
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Singapore paddler Zhou Jingyi, 19, is going to the Olympics

Teenager Zhou Jingyi recorded another significant milestone in her steady rise as the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) confirmed her qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympics on June 12.

Based on the latest ITTF ranking, she is 63rd in the Race to Paris rankings and earned her spot as the top Asian player who has yet to qualify.

This means the 19-year-old Singaporean has become the youngest local-born female ping pong player to qualify for the Olympics after Tan Paey Fern became the first to do so for Athens 2004 aged 30.

Zhou, who is in Slovenia for the WTT Star Contender Ljubljana, said: “Over the past year, we have travelled extensively around the world preparing for the Olympics.

“It was both physically and mentally exhausting, especially with an injury. However, I was able to improve significantly, thanks to the many competition opportunities. Qualifying for the Olympics is incredibly meaningful to me, as it has been my goal since Day One.”

The Singapore Sports School (SSP) alumna, who started playing the sport when she was five, showed her potential from a young age.

At 12, she became the first Singaporean to win at the ITTF World Hopes Week and Challenge in Luxembourg in 2017.

A year later, she rose to fifth in the ITTF Under-15 girls’ world ranking to become the youngest Singaporean to break into the top five.

The right-hander, who plays with a shakehand grip, continued to win at the junior and cadet level before winning the WTT Youth Contender Szombathely Under-17 girls’ singles gold in 2021 and getting promoted to the senior national team in January 2022.

To focus on table tennis full-time, she also tweaked her academic path after Secondary 2 by switching from the SSP’s International Baccalaureate programme to its polytechnic through-train scheme. After attaining her O levels, she put off her polytechnic enrolment.

While she has picked up several knee injuries following frequent competition in the last few years, she has also earned her reward as she is set to become the third Singaporean table tennis player to make her Olympic debut alongside Izaac Quek, 18, and Zeng Jian, 27, who confirmed their spots in a qualifying tournament in May.

Zhou said: “My mindset for the Olympics is to focus on each match and gain experience and exposure on this unique stage. I intend to approach my matches with the same mentality as any other competition and to perform to the best of my abilities.”

OLYMPICS 2024Team Singaporetable tennis