Table tennis star Tie Yana determined to lead the next generation of Hong Kong players to glory
The 38-year-old will be a notable absentee at the Worlds in Sweden as she takes on a new role as coach
Long-serving table tennis star Tie Yana is hoping her new role as coach will help make up for the disappointment of losing out on an Olympic Games medal, the only silverware missing from a glorious career.
The former mainlander, who came to Hong Kong in 2002 and immediately made an impact by capturing a mixed doubles gold medal with Cheung Yuk at the Busan Asian Games the same year, has just begun her new role as coach at the Hang Seng Table Tennis Academy.
She is lending her vast experience to the next generation of local stars, who she hopes will also do Hong Kong proud on the international stage.
“The women’s team is doing pretty good at the moment. I am a bit too old to be considered for international duty and the other Hong Kong players should take up the responsibility,” said Tie, who turns 39 next month and is considered the most successful Hong Kong table tennis player ever.
“Looking back, I could not have asked for more as a player; coming over to Hong Kong where I have since been given plenty of opportunities at international level. I have won medals at most big events, the World Championships, Asian Games, World Cup and Asian Championships.
“The only silverware missing is an Olympic Games medal. That makes my career a bit incomplete. But you can’t ask for everything and one day if one of my young proteges can go all the way and win an Olympic Games, my life would be perfect and complete.”
Tie represented Hong Kong at four consecutive Olympic Games from 2004 in Athens to the Rio Games two years ago. She twice reached the singles quarter-finals (2004 and 2008) and was a member of the team that finished fifth in 2008 and 2012.
She led the Hong Kong women’s team to a silver medal at the 2004 World Championships in Doha. Ten years later, she captured her last world team medal – a bronze – in Tokyo.
On the world tour, she has captured 22 gold medals, eight in women’s singles, including the 2016 Hungarian Open when she turned back the clock and won it when she was 36. Tie reached a career high of number three in the world rankings in 2006 and was still ranked 11th early last year even after giving birth to her baby boy in 2013.
Tie was also a member of the last team World Championships in Kuala Lumpur two years ago when Hong Kong finished fifth but her name is missing on the roster for the latest edition of the Worlds in Halmstad, Sweden, which starts later this month.
Since 2003, Tie has only missed the 2013 Worlds once when she was pregnant and her presence will be sorely missed in Halmstad, where they will have to make do without the talented shakehand-grip player.
The Hong Kong squad now features Lee Ho-ching, Doo Hoi-kem, Ng Wing-nam, Minnie Soo Wai-yum and Mak Tze-wing.
Youngster Soo, who turns 20 on Friday, is pleased she has been given the opportunity to represent Hong Kong at the highest level.
“I believe in myself that I have the quality to help the team despite my relative young age,” said Soo, who recently captured a gold medal in the women’s doubles with Ng at the Slovenia Open. “The World Championships is a big stage for any player and I want to make a career breakthrough.”
Soo was also a member in Kuala Lumpur but never played, but coach Li Ching said the youngster will feature in Halmstad.
The men’s team will be headed by Wong Chun-ting, the world number seven. Other players are Jiang Tianyi, Ho Kwan-kit, Lam Siu-hang and Ng Pak-nam.
“The team is mixed with experienced and young players and our target is to reach the quarter-finals,” said head coach Chan Kong-wah.