August 4, 2017

“I thought I could be the champion.” Li Chunli

That thought became reality on the 4th of August 2002.

It is 15 years to the day since New Zealand’s Li Chunli won Gold in the Women’s Singles at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games.

Ranked No.45 in the world at the time, Li defeated the No.1 seed Li Jia Wei (SGP) in the final 4-1 (11-6, 11-9, 5-11, 11-5, 11-8).

It was a stunning win that Li put down to the fun she has out on the court.

“I think it’s because I like table tennis so much and also I enjoy playing. I’m better than I was last year. I think I have practiced harder, practicing against men in Japan and that’s really helped me.” Li Chunli

She had been playing in the Japanese Super Circuit, an event which attracted the likes of Jorgen Persson and Kalinikos Kreanga. It was perfect preparation playing against some of the best men in the world.

Li also attended a training camp in China for 10 days in April prior to the Games, training for five hours a day and sparring with players from Vietnam and Guang Xi Province.

But it wasn’t just preparation, as coach Simeon Cairns pointed out.

“Every country has had good training. Those who have the best strategies and get a good draw will get through.”

Perfect preparation and performing in the moment led to Li conquering the Commonwealth.

With the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games just around the corner, do you think we will see once again see an Oceania athlete standing on top of the podium?

The evergreen Li Chunli, a permanent fixture of Oceania table tennis.