Published Sunday 17 August 2014

At five years old, most kids do not have bad eyes. Sophia Dong did.

That was when the doctor recommended she take up table tennis.

“The ball moves really fast and it works your eyes,” Dong said. “It’s pretty good. You have to always watch it.

“At the beginning [of my treatment], I played once a week. I wasn’t that great but I just got better [at table tennis] and my parents thought this was a good opportunity. They were really pushing me. Now I really enjoy it.”

She no longer wears spectacles and will represent New Zealand in the table tennis event at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games on Sunday, August 17.

“I had [my eyes] tested before I came [to Nanjing], and they’re perfect. I’m just like any other table tennis player,” she said.

Ranked at position 442 in the world for her age group, Dong is a long shot for a medal in Nanjing.

And this is precisely why she intends to immerse herself fully in the experience – she is realistic about appearing at future Games.

“I probably won’t get the chance again,” she said, adding, “It [the Olympic Games] has kind of been in my mind ever since I started, but I never thought I would make it anywhere close. 

“I just want to be around some of these really high-achieving athletes as my role models, and the Chat with Champions [feature in Nanjing] sounds interesting. There’s Wang Liqin from China, Jorgen Persson from Sweden, and Yao Ming from China.”

Dong, 16, already has a clear plan to hang up her paddle when she graduates from university. Her dream is to have qualified for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia by then.

Youth Information Service 2014-08-16  20:10