Tears to cheers

Tears to cheers

Phila Siu catches up with Hong Kong's latest world champion, who overcame terrible setbacks to score a dramatic victory

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Photo: Edmond So
Every time Ellie scored a point, she would roar. "I did it to boost my morale," she says. And she certainly needed to.

Ellie Fong E does not play table tennis just to kill time. It's a way of life for the 11-year-old.

The Year Six student at Po Leung Kuk Choi Kai Yau School won one of the world's top junior table tennis championships in Sweden last Sunday. It wasn't easy. She came down with a cold and then a stomach virus the night before the opening round. Despite the pain, the winner of the girls' singles event at the Swedish Junior & Cadet Open never thought about quitting.

"I told myself that I had to keep going after everything I had gone through," Ellie says.

When she got to Sweden, the temperature was minus 10 degrees Celsius, and she caught a cold. She recovered but then she caught a stomach bug from bad canteen food that kept her up all night. Luckily her mother Fanny Lam Wai-fan, a paediatrician, was with her. According to Lam, Ellie was dehydrated because of the vomiting and diarrhoea.

At times the pain became so intense during a match, Ellie broke down and cried.

"I thought about [asking her to] give up," says her mum. "Why did my daughter have to undergo so much pain? If we were in Hong Kong, she would have been put on a drip."

She says she never forced her daughter to continue playing. It was Ellie, she insists, who was determined not to throw in the towel.

The youngster showed great courage to reach the final, where she faced Puerto Rico's Adriana Diaz.

On the day, Ellie felt better and managed to eat some bananas. But she got off to a poor start, losing the first two sets. Yet she persevered, and every time she scored a point, she would let out a roar to boost her morale.

"Every one was cheering for her [the opponent] at the time. But I did not give up," Ellie says. She bounced back strongly to claim her first victory in an international competition. She used the difficulties as inspiration to keep going.

Ellie, who took up table tennis at the age of four, usually practises with her coach six times a week, two hours a day, after doing her homework in the school library.

"Sometimes it just gets too tiring and I think about giving up table tennis. But then I realise that I just love the sport," she says.

Apart from table tennis, Ellie also plays the clarinet and is a member of the school band.

Ellie has been selected to represent the International Table Tennis Federation's world team.

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