Currently ranked 4th in the world, Li Jiawei has indeed lived up to the name of, not only Singapore’s top paddler but also, Singapore’s top Sportswoman. She has won the accolade 5 times, and she is only 25 years old.
However, she is a veteran competitor, despite her young age. In 1995, she was spotted by Singapore officials in Beijing. She started her international representative career in competitive table tennis one year later at the age of 15. At the age of 18, she became a full-fledged Singaporean. The rest, they would say, is history.
Undaunted by the expectations that rested on her shoulders, Li Jiawei climbed steadily up the ranking ladders from a mere 18th in 2000 to No. 4 today. She also won the hearts of a nation when she played to a 4th place finish at the Athens Olympics in 2004. Her tenacity throughout the Games and her efforts to defeat second-seeded Wang Nan captured the country’s imagination.
Her success carried on to 2005, where she came in second in the most prominent table tennis tournament, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Pro Tour Grand Finals. She went on dominate the South-East Asian Games, clinching the Silver for the Mixed Doubles and Women’s Singles events. She was also the key player in the Women’s Team and Doubles events which added two more Gold medals to the contingent’s medal tally.
Jiawei had a fruitful year in 2006 as well. In the Commonwealth Games, she achieved the Gold medal for the Women’s Team and Women’s Doubles events, as well as the silver medal for the Mixed Doubles and Women’s Singles events. She went on to win the ITTF Pro Tour Russia Open Women’s Singles event. More notably, Li Jiawei brought glory to Singapore when she came in third in the ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals and the Women’s World Cup, two of the most prestigious and difficult competitions in the table tennis arena. During the Asian Games, Singaporeans island wide saw her hard-fought effort to go against the odds to bring back an astounding 3 medals, a Silver for the Women’s Team event and two bronzes for the Women’s Singles and Mixed Doubles events.