Hui-Ling Vong was one of the first athletes to be selected in the 61-strong New Zealand team for the upcoming 2018 Youth Olympic Games, when she won the International Table Tennis Federation Oceania qualifying tournament in Australia last November.
The year 12 Onslow College student will represent New Zealand in table tennis at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Buenos Aires from 6-18 October, alongside boys player Nathan Xu from Saint Kentigern College in Auckland.
Hui-Ling has also recently been selected to represent the New Zealand Junior Women’s Table Tennis Team at the Junior World Championships to be held in Bendigo, Australia from 2-9 December, so a busy and exciting time for her is just around the corner.
“Right now I am just focusing on the Youth Olympics, they are coming up pretty quick,” she says. “I fly up to Auckland next week for more training and then meet up with the team and we all fly to Argentina next Saturday.”
Schoolwork and most recently, exams, aside, Hui-Ling has been training in Wellington most days. “I have been training about 10 hours a week, but am starting to bump this up now. There is on-table training where I play with a partner and just go through exercises and then there is the off-table practice with specific training and fitness.”
Fitness is a key component of being a top table tennis player, with rallies and games often taxing affairs, particularly for Hui-Ling, who has an attacking style of play.
In winning the Oceania YOG qualifiers she beat New Zealand teammate Jiayi Zhou in a seven game epic, Hui-Ling’s power game prevailing over the defensive skills of Jiayi.
But mental skills are also a big part of competitive table tennis. “Much of it is thinking about the different tactics of opponents and combatting different styles such as choppers and defensive players and keeping the pressure on them and keeping cool while you play.”
Hui-Ling is expecting tough competition in Buenos Aires. “I know some of the players that will be there, having followed them in past international competitions and on the ITTF website and places like that. I have seen them play and they are pretty amazing.”
Table Tennis New Zealand Executive Director John Lea stated that the YOG will be hugely beneficial to Hui-Ling and Nathan.
“Hui-Ling has shown a great ability to learn and grow from the experiences she has been presented with. She prepares diligently for the big occasions, with results that demonstrate a rapidly improving ability.”
“This is the opportunity for both players to prove to themselves and their supporters that they deserve to be playing on the international stage while they gain the quality table time that is needed to become a world-class player.”
The duo will compete in the individual events and will also compete as a doubles pair in the International Team Event.
Hui-ling is no stranger to travelling and playing overseas, having represented New Zealand in numerous international events over the last two years, one of the most noticeable was representing New Zealand women's team in the 2016 ITTF World Team Championships. She has also represented Oceania in the 2016 World Cadet Challenge, finishing 16th in the girls singles.
“Earlier this year we had an Oceania Junior and Cadet Championship in Rarotonga and I managed to come first in the Junior Girls. Then we had a team tournament after that and I was in a team with a Japanese player and we managed to come third.”
Hui-ling started playing table tennis several years ago. “I saw my brother playing and thought the sport was really cool. But I wasn’t competitive back then. I started to get better and I got the opportunity to represent New Zealand at the 2013 World Hopes Challenge when I was 12 and I got to see others playing and from then I wanted to compete on the same level with them.
“That was when I fell in love with table tennis and I just wanted to improve and keep playing and it has led me to this point.”
Hui-Ling thanked the people who have helped her, not least her parents and coach Li Chun Li and everyone who have helped her practise.
“I would also like to thank everyone who has made a donation towards my funding for the competitions I am going to.”
She is also looking forward to watching other sports at the YOG when she gets a break from her own competition. “I am looking forward to seeing how the other sports operate and how the athletes prepare and compete and hopefully I can learn from that.”
Other wellington sportspeople going to the YOG are 3x3 basketballer Joseph Ahie (also from Onslow College), sevens rugby player Dhys Faleafaga (St Mary’s College) and climber Sarah Tetzlaff (Wellington Girls’ College, 2017).
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