Hong Kong table tennis star Doo Hoi-kem, 19, recalls a touching moment at the Rio Olympics. “It happened when I played China’s top seed Ding Ning in the women’s singles,” she says. “I had prepared well for the last 16 match, so it was heartbreaking to lose 0-4. After the match, I burst into tears.
“It felt like I would never recover from the defeat. Then my coach told me that it was part of growing up. Being an athlete is not always easy. You either overcome adversity or let it get to you. I chose the former and decided to concentrate on the team event.”
Doo made a name for herself after defeating China’s world number one Liu Shiwen 4-2 at the Asian Olympic Qualifying tournament in Hong Kong in April. But the teenager could not carry that form into the Olympics.
“After the women’s singles event, I started to think about what was wrong, physically, technically and mentally. You can escape, but I’m not a coward,” Doo says. “I had been selected as the core player in the team event, so I did not want to let my team down. I focused on playing my best for every single point.”
Doo proved herself to be a formidable player, beating Taiwan’s Huang Yi-hua and Chen Szu-yu 3-0 in the first round. Her brilliant performance helped Hong Kong’s women’s team qualify for the quarter-finals where they faced Germany. Although Doo gave Hong Kong hope after her narrow 3-2 victory over Germany’s Perissa Solja, they failed to advance to the semi-finals.
“I’m satisfied with my overall performance at the Games. It was my first appearance in the world’s biggest tournament. I gained valuable experience by taking part in them,” says Doo.
Asked whether Ding’s shout after winning every point was intimidating, Doo says it is normal for athletes to do so. It’s a confidence booster, she says.
“Not surprisingly, Ding’s technique, confidence and courage overwhelmed me. But more importantly, the match enabled me to identify my weaknesses,” she adds. “Ding was exceptionally quick on her feet and hit the ball very fast. She would aggressively return my serve and turn it into attack.
“I’m going to focus on my power and speed during training. I’m looking forward to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where I will try to prove my resilience and show that hard work pays off.”
Which fictional character would you choose as your teammate?
I would want Captain America from The Avengers. Our team needs him because he’s both agile and strong. His shield could be used like a table tennis racquet to hit powerful shots.
What song title best describes you when you’re playing your sport?
Who Can Understand A Loner’s Heart? by Taiwanese pop singer Dave Wong. It’s a sad song, but it reminds me that we all have the ability to overcome adversity on our own. I feel stronger every time I listen to this song.
What food would you never give up?
My mum makes the best fried rice. Every time I eat it, I forget the pain I have to go through during training or tournaments.
Who is your favourite athlete?
China’s top table tennis player Zhang Jike. He plays so fast that his opponent cannot always keep up. I’m also very impressed with his backhand flick – an attacking shot against a short ball which forces his opponent to make unforced errors.