Table tennis players Hui Ling Vong (Wellington) and Nathan Xu (Auckland) have been named to the New Zealand team for the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
The pair have been selected after both winning their respective divisions at the 2017 ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation) Oceania Youth Olympic Games Qualification Tournament.
Having turned 14 in November, Nathan Xu is likely to be one of the youngest competitors at the Buenos Aires 2018.
The Aucklander began playing table tennis at just four years old and, despite his age, is currently the third ranked men’s player in New Zealand.
“Seeing the ball fly over the net to win a game after countless hours of practising and trying to master that shot is simply the best feeling ever,” said Nathan.
“Table tennis is a really complex sport which requires the player to constantly adapt. The way every shot is different and the fact that you have to react to those changes swiftly is what makes table tennis beautiful.”
Above: Nathan Xu competing
The Aucklander will come up against the best youth players in the world at the Youth Olympic Games.
“I’d like to use this once in a lifetime opportunity to gain experience and knowledge and to improve as an athlete.”
17 year old Hui Ling Vong says the sense of competition is what drives her to perform.
“The excitement, the pressure and the feeling of hard earned success is great, that’s what makes me love table tennis,” she said.
“I’d like to bring more recognition to the sport within New Zealand. I hope more people, especially youngsters, will get into the game and enjoy it and learn as much as I have.”
Above: Hui-Ling competing
NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith extended her congratulations to the pair.
“These athletes are excelling in their field at a very young age. They've worked hard to be selected and will gain an immense amount of experience from the Youth Olympic Games."
Table Tennis New Zealand Executive Director John Lea says Hui Ling and Nathan are extremely dedicated athletes.
“Nathan’s biggest assets are his speed and a keen willingness to learn. He is ambitious and is undaunted in meeting challenges against more experienced players, helping him to gather experience at a rate that belies his age,” he said.
“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.”
Above: Hui-Ling and Nathan at the ITTF Qualification Tournament
John Lea believes the Youth Olympic Games will be hugely beneficial to the pair.
“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.
The reserve athletes (non travelling) for the event are Yang Lun Zhao (men’s division) and Jiayi Zhou (women's division).
The Youth Olympic Games run from 6–18 October 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.