Theweekendleader

Commonwealth TT: At 51, she is still winning titles

Bharat Sharma   |  New Delhi

09-May-2013

At 51, she looks good enough to overcome players half her age. Certainly, New Zealand coach Chunli Li could have easily played for her team if only she wanted to in the ongoing Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships here.

Chunli came out of retirement last year and won an ITTF title in Fiji. The ageless paddler went on to qualify for the London Olympics, her fifth Games, having played in Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000) and Athens (2004).

She is only one of three players from New Zealand to play in the Olympics.

At her best, she was world-ranked 19 and even today she is 139 when no Indian is in the top 200. Come to think of it, the next best New Zealander is ranked 829.

"I was tempted to play here, but I thought I should rather let these young kids gain some experience of playing at the international arena. I will get a lot more opportunities to play elsewhere," Chunli told IANS.

A lot of players heaved a sigh of relief when they came to know that she was not playing here. She has an enviable record at the Commonwealth level. She won the singles gold at the 2002 Manchester games where table tennis made its debut. She ended up winning three medals in the competition when she was well into her 40s. The China-born did it all after she moved to New Zealand in 1987.

"There were hardly any opportunities in China for me at that time and moving to New Zealand was the best decision of my life. My adopted country has given me so much, I'll ever be thankful for it," said the Guangxi native.

How long does she want to play?

"I don't know. I came out of retirement because I wanted to push myself. I feel I am still good enough and the FIji title proved that."

What does she think of the Indian players?

"I see a lot of skill in Indians. Even the women are doing well now... they will do even better if they work on their movements."

If only the Indians had someone like Chunli to motivate them. - IANS