Having both beauty and strength, Liu Shiwen is one of the most popular female Table Tennis players in the planet. She is currently ranked first in the world and has been dominating the world ranking since September 2013. She has the making of the next Grand Slam champion but just like any other great athlete, she’s also been through tough times.
Starting at a young age
Liu Shiwen was born on April 12, 1991 in Liaoning, China. Her birth brought great joy to the Liu family. Shiwen’s grandmother hoped she could be a writer or poet in the future, hence the name “Shi” meaning poem. However, since Liu Shiwen’s mother failed to become a professional Table Tennis player, there were other plans for newly born. Liu Shiwen started to play Table Tennis at the age of 4 with her mom being her first coach. She developed solid basic skills which brought her to the hands of coach Zhang Jingqing at the age of 5. This is where she started her Table Tennis career.
Moving to Guangzhou
When she turned 7 years old, a major life-changing decision had to be done by the Liu family: Zhang Jingqing was transferred to Guangdong and he wanted to take Liu Shiwen with him to continue training. Her mom made the difficult decision and let her young daughter go in order to allow her to continue developing in Table Tennis. Of course, the young Liu Shiwen was homesick and cried almost everyday during her first year. Feeling the emptiness as well, her mother took another bold decision and left her job to relocate to Guangdong with her daughter. Liu Shiwen’s performance improved immediately leading her to the Guangdong Provincial Team where she made her presence felt.
In the 2003 Chinese City Games, Liu Shiwen was able to compete against members of the National Team and posted victories. This eventually opened the door for her into the Chinese National Team. In the early part of 2004, she got in China’s second team and later that year she got the attention of the coaching staff after a wonderful performance in a Squad Trial. She finished first and got admitted into the National Team.
At the age of 16, she was already defending China in the 2007 Zagreb World Championships. However she did not have any remarkable accomplishment that time but it was in the National Championships later that year where her skills were acknowledged. The Chinese National Championships may not be an international competition but the level of competency required is not to be underestimated, after all, Chinese players are the most difficult opponents in this world. It is also a major factor for the coaching staff in deciding their main players, and it was here that Liu Shiwen defeated Li Xiaoxia in the Women’s Singles finals.
In 2009, Liu Shiwen clinched her first ever world title after winning the 2009 Women’s World Cup in Guangzhou at the young age of 18. This was the first step towards her 4 World Cup titles (2009, 2012, 2013 and 2015) which earned her the nickname of “Queen of the World Cups” because she has bagged the title each time she has played in the competition.
A defeat with long-term effects
Future was promising, but Liu Shiwen’s rapid progress took a halt when she failed to meet the high expectations given to her in the 2010 World Team Championships in Moscow: She lost to Wang Yuegu and Feng Tianwei, leading to a heartbreaking defeat of the Chinese Team. This became the biggest stumbling block for the young player.
She struggled to get out of the shadows of such defeat. She even won a few titles in 2011 but those were not enough to give assurance to coach Kong Linghui. In the 2012 Asian Championships, Liu suffered another devastating defeat against a Singaporean player after losing to Yu Mengyu in the Women’s Team finals against Singapore.
According to former head coach Shi Zhihao, he felt very sorry for Liu Shiwen. He was well aware of the potential problems even before the competition, but still pushed through with his confidence towards her.
Being her personal coach, Kong Linghui consistently helped and motivated Liu Shiwen to overcome the shadow of her defeat in Moscow. Despite knowing that her chances to be in the London Olympics were very slim, Kong Linghui urged her to continue aiming for it. The coach required her to face the difficulties instead of avoiding them.
Back on the throne
Following the 2012 London Olympics where she was not able to play, Liu Shiwen woke up from slumber and did what she had to do: She made her presence felt in the international scene once again sealing the year 2012 with a convincing win in the Grand Finals against Ding Ning. A year later, Liu Shiwen reached new heights in the World Championships, reaching the finals against Li Xiaoxia. Although she didn’t win, it was her highest record yet.
As of now, efforts from her to regain the trust from the coaching staff are evident and she’s delivering results. But, in order for her to erase all the doubts, she needs to continue doing better in Team competitions. Head coach Kong Linghui has high hopes for Liu Shiwen and it is now up to the player to do her part and prove that she can live up to the high expectations of the Chinese Team.
Liu Shiwen uses the Butterfly Liu Shiwen blade with flared handle and Butterfly Spinart rubber red, 2.1mm.
Watch her impressive performance at the Women’s World Cup 2015 here: