S’porean of the Year nominee: Feng Tianwei moved nation with guts and tears at Commonwealth Games
As the Singapore flag was raised to the strains of Majulah Singapura, tears streamed down table tennis player Feng Tianwei’s face while she stood atop the Commonwealth Games podium.
Even though many Singaporeans were moved by her gutsy performance in Birmingham in August – the sensational, come-from-behind win in the singles final was sandwiched between the women’s team and doubles golds – few knew how tough the road to glory was this time round.
The tears had flowed freely after her victory over compatriot Zeng Jian, and it was understandable. At 3-0 down in the best-of-seven final, Feng was staring into the abyss.
Then 35, and in the twilight of her career, she managed to summon the fire within to tame an opponent 10 years younger.
But she later revealed that while age and form were not on her side, neither was her health.
She had been suffering from “terrible” heart palpitations after taking a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in January. She was forced to halt her practice and halve her training load when she returned to the table.
So the fighter was surprised by her fairy-tale finish.
She said: “I didn’t expect to win the three Commonwealth Games gold medals, nor did I forecast what results I would achieve.
“I focused more on the preparations, thus my mind was at peace and I gave it my all. The end result was a pleasant surprise.”
For her inspirational feats, Feng has been nominated for The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award.
“I’m very happy to be nominated for this award. I will continue learning and try to be a good role model for youth,” she said.
“I could not have achieved my results at the Commonwealth Games without the support of various stakeholders and fans, for which I’m grateful. Their respect for my every decision is especially moving, and I hope to repay Singapore through my own ways and hard work.”
This includes her current arrangement with national sports agency Sport Singapore, where she is now part of its sport development group, working on developing sport pathways for children and youth, particularly in table tennis.
At the same time, she is pursuing a master’s degree in sport industry management at the Physical Education Teaching and Research Department of Peking University.
While Feng remains open to representing Singapore on court, she is also excited about going back to school.
She said: “Schoolwork keeps me busy, but I still follow what is going on in the world of table tennis and am still keeping up with my fitness.
“It’s quite a big change now that I’m a full-time student. There is homework every day, and it is a different kind of pressure from playing professional table tennis, but I kind of enjoy life on campus.”