TL;DR – Let’s play 5 guesses.
Feng Tianwei, the lynchpin of Singapore’s women’s table tennis team, has been cut from the national team. The current world number 6, she won Singapore’s first individual medal at the Olympics in 2012. She also won numerous other medals at various other international meets.
So why the seemingly sudden decision to cut her from the national team? We speculate on a few reasons:
1. Age is catching up
Feng is 30 this year. By the next Olympics in Tokyo, she’ll be 34. She has suffered numerous injuries over her career. In fact, there were speculations that her injuries were the reason for her poor showing at the Rio Olympics. Put together, the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) assessed that Feng “does not fit into the STTA’s current plans for rejuvenation”. This is the “official” reason given by STTA.
But perhaps there are other reasons… Such as…
2. She’s earned enough money
Maybe it’s not that STTA cutting Feng from the national team. Perhaps it’s Feng who has decided that she has had enough. After all, she has had an illustrious career. And with the multi-million award programme by the Singapore National Olympic Council, Feng probably earned quite a lot. By various estimates, Feng could have earned close to $3 million since she came to Singapore to play for the national team back in 2007.
$3 million. That’s quite a lot of money! Who knows? Perhaps she feels that she has enough money to retire, do start some other business or… maybe just retire completely!
3. She’s not happy that Singaporeans still not warm towards her
Despite winning all those medals for Singapore, many Singaporeans still don’t feel that Feng is Singaporean. Many Singaporeans still don’t feel proud about her achievements. Some even made very caustic remarks about Feng and her fellow team mates when they returned empty-handed from Rio. Just head over to some of the forums… you know… the usual suspects.
Those comments are so xenophobic that we refuse to reproduce them here. But… you know… with that kind of comments, it’s understandable that Feng may be disheartened. All her hard work, and Singaporeans still don’t accept her as a fellow Singaporean. If it was me, I will also feel pek chek la.
4. She’s going back to China
Perhaps she’s so pek chek that she is heading back to China.
Or maybe she, like Li Jiawei before her, found love. So maybe Feng is getting married and going back to China to start her family there. Is that being a mercenary? Depends. Some times, when love comes knocking, then really bo bian, just got to go where the heart is.
If we really think about it, other professionals move from company to company and even migrate to another country where it offers them better opportunities and prospects all the time. We don’t think there’s anything wrong with our banker friend who moves from Standard Chartered Bank to Citibank, or from Singapore to New York, do we? For professional sportspeople, perhaps their options are to move to represent different country. Is that mercenary? I am not sure it is.
5. Or maybe she’s going independent?
Feng has had her fair share of disagreements with the STTA. Last year, Feng had issues with her then-coach. This year, after the poor showing at Rio, Feng, along with her team mates, had expressed that they had been unhappy with their current set-up at the STTA. She had expressed that she might opt to be managed independently. Perhaps STTA’s decision not to renew Feng’s playing contract is a response to what Feng had earlier said.
Now that Feng is no longer under a contract with STTA, she can be independently managed. Options available to her are for her to be managed by Sports Singapore (SportsSG) or Singapore Sports Institute (SSI).
Mr Toh Boon Yi, who heads the SSI said:
“We will discuss with Feng Tianwei, STTA and the Singapore National Olympic Council on the option of supporting her under the Sports Excellence (Spex) Scholarship scheme, and the performance targets and milestones expected of her.”
Feng is currently supported under the Spex Scholarship. It is understood that her Spex Scholarship, which runs till the end of the year, will not be revoked. So that means that even though Feng may not be in the national team, she may still be competing in international competitions, sponsored by SportsSG or SSI.
Whatever the reason may be, Feng is out of the national team. Now the STTA will focus on nurturing the younger members in the team and groom the the next generation of paddlers.
As for Feng… well… we thank her for all the medals she has won for Singapore and thank her for all the memories and we wish her all the best in her next endeavour.
She has updated her weibo following the release of STTA’s plans to drop her, and her fans have reposted it on the Facebook page that they maintain for her.
(Updated 28th Oct)
The saga continues:
SSTA’s Deputy President: Facebook post on FTW
TheMiddleGround: On that Facebook post that’s now been deleted.
Todayonline: FTW axed for disrespect, ill discipline and misconduct.
SSTA Official: Those are the Deputy President’s personal views.
FTW breaks silence.
SSTA President Ellen Lee: Move to axe FTW deliberated for some time.
FTW’s full statement