Table tennis star Wong Chun-ting is the first Hongkonger to be ranked in the world’s top 10. Wong who became a full-time athlete six years ago, is ranked No 9 in the world.
The 24-year-old won a silver medal in singles at the GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour Spanish Open, in Almeria, Spain, and a bronze in mixed doubles at the 2015 World Table Tennis Championships in Suzhou, in Jiangsu province .
Young Post asked Wong about his rise to stardom, and what it takes to excel in the sport.
Wong is considered something of a late starter – 18 is considered old to start as a professional table tennis player. Wong says he had to put extra effort during training and take part in as many international tournaments as possible.
“I needed intensive training, but competition experience was key to understanding my weaknesses and improving them,” he says.
“I wasn’t disappointed to be on the bench at the 2012 London Olympics. I was able to learn from other leading athletes and evaluate competition tactics. There is always room for improvement.”
Wong says his toughest lesson came in the quarter-final against Chinese Taipei at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
“I should have won two singles matches after taking a 2-0 lead, but lost both. Coping with such failures is tough, but I didn’t let it get to me. I reviewed what I did wrong, and worked out how to avoid making the same mistakes again,” says Wong.
Wong says a short training stint in Beijing helped improve his tactics and physical fitness. “In Beijing, I trained with the world’s leading table tennis players. I learned how to return aggressive serves and turn them into a weapon to attack my opponents,” he says.
“I also learned to control the ball speed and spin which could help me control the rhythm of a match. But strengthening your basic techniques and tenacity is key to maintaining a high level of performance in every match.”
Tips for handling stress
Wong said training can be more stressful than competitions, as he had a few targets to complete in a limited time, like building up stamina and learning new techniques. “Perhaps the coaches want us to get used to the stress of major tournaments so that pressure isn’t a big obstacle in our matches. My Hong Kong teammate Tang Peng helped me a lot by sharing his experiences and techniques in preparation for international tournaments.”
Wong is looking forward to the Asian Table Tennis Qualification Tournament being held this week in Hong Kong, where he will compete against leading players, including China’s world No 1 Ma Long. This is one of the regional qualifiers for this year’s Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Who are your favourite athletes?
Ma Long and his China teammate Zhang Jike, the reigning Olympic table tennis singles champion. I’m impressed by their supreme tactics and charm; they never boast about their achievements. We have played against each other several times at international tournaments, but we are close friends; we even share tactics with each other.
What song title best describes you when you’re playing your sport?
Eason Chan’s Bicycle, which describes a father-son relationship. Family support plays a crucial role in my sporting life.
If you could have any superpower for 24 hours, what would you choose and how would you use it?
Endless energy. We use a lot of energy, especially during training or international competitions. Athletes who never run out of energy will always perform better and stay more focused during a competition.
What one drink will you never give up?
Milk. It’s especially important for athletes, as it provides calcium to keep their bones healthy.