At the All Hong Kong Schools Jing Ying Table Tennis Tournament last Friday, Pedrey Ng Wing-lam of St Paul’s Co-educational College successfully defended her title in the girls singles event and was crowned champion for the second year in a row.
Unlike most players, who let out a loud shout after winning a point, the 16-year-old was unusually quiet and calm. Even when her opponent scored five points in a row in the third set during the finals, and ended up winning that set, Pedrey had a poker face the whole time.
While many were impressed by the teenager’s ability to keep her cool under stress, those familiar with Pedrey knows she has not always been a calm player.
In fact, she was quite the opposite. Pedrey tells Young Post that during her 10 years in the sport, she has lost her temper around the ping pong table countless times.
She has thrown her paddle and towel on the ground when she gets frustrated with her performance, and even received a yellow card from the umpire for her behaviour.
“I’ve always had a problem with controlling my temper, though I’ve never lashed out at my opponent, because I am usually angry with myself,” says Pedrey.
Her coach had asked her to get rid of this bad habit for years, but Pedrey never took the advice seriously. It wasn’t until she faced a painful defeat at the Asian Junior and Cadet Championship last year that she realised her bad temper could ruin her table tennis career.
The teen player was a pillar of the Hong Kong under-15 team and her coaches had pinned their hopes on her leading the team to victory in a crucial match against Chinese Taipei.
The game did not work in Pedrey’s favour, however, and as usual, she let her emotions get the better of her and couldn’t get her head back in the game.
Team Hong Kong was eventually trounced by Chinese Taipei and Pedrey was guilt-ridden for causing the team’s defeat.
“I made Hong Kong lose that match. I knew I really let my coaches down,” she recalls.
To help herself stay calm in competitions, Pedrey decided to stop her habit of shouting after scoring a point.
She explains that shouting would pump her up, which is good for most players, but sometimes caused her to get overly excited and lose focus.
“There is still a burning desire for victory inside me; I just no longer express it through shouting,” she says.
The reigning Jing Ying champion says she’s come a long way to become the top- ranked under-18 player in the city.
When she first joined the junior national team in 2015, she almost got dismissed from the team for her lazy attitude during training.
“My coach said I was wasting my time and potential,” she recalls.
But after seeing players on the senior team pour their heart and soul into training, Pedrey realised she had to work much harder.
The Form Five student now trains 18 hours a week, but she is still able to stay on top of her studies.
Pedrey, who will take the International Baccalaureate examination in 2021, has to make a difficult decision soon – to choose between staying in Hong Kong to advance her sporting career, or pursue a bachelor’s degree abroad.
She explains that, as many junior table tennis players turn professional once they graduate from secondary school, it would be almost impossible for her to vie for spots on the Hong Kong team if she remains a part-time player, or trains overseas.
“I really don’t know what I’m going to pick, it will be a tough call,” she says.
If Pedrey were to become a full-time athlete, she hopes she will be as successful as Minnie So Wai-yam, who earned a bronze medal for Hong Kong at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games at the age of 21. “I want to fight for Hong Kong in international tournaments like the World Championships,” she says.
“I know I’m still far away from this goal, but I know I will make great improvements if I devote all my time and energy into the sport.”