by Kabir Nagpal
In 2002, Wu Jiaduo had an interesting time at the start of the year when the ITTF World Tour Austrian Open came around. It had been a challenging week, which involved last minute permission to compete, an unbeaten day’s outing and then a surprising exit just when things seemed to be moving in the right direction.
Such a hectic and topsy turvy time was the peak of her career nearly two decades ago, a career in which Wu has had to face more than her fair share of challenges and challengers, to reach the very top.
A history of examples
Born in 1977, the Gen X athlete started out at the age of 7 to train with specific coaches and define a playing style. It took her 11 years since to reach the first summit of her career, when she was crowned the provincial champion in Zhejiang, 1995.
The Economics graduate student suddenly realised her interests lay elsewhere and for that she needed to find her own way in the world. Only 24, Wu decided to leave her hometown of Hangzhou, about one hour by train from Shanghai and move to Beijing where she fulfilled the role of practice partner for the national team. Later, she moved to Europe.
It was at that stage her career accelerated; at club level she had been predominantly in Germany, although she did represent Shanghai University, where former world men’s doubles champion Lu Lin was also playing at the time.
Her stay in Shanghai lasted only one year before the opportunity arose to play at Rothenbach in Germany, a club she had previously represented for three years before joining Kroppach in 2001.
Proving that no big move is without the support of family, her move to Europe had the support of her parents:
“My parents told me to go and learn, not only to improve my table tennis but to learn how to live in another part of the world and to widen my knowledge.” Wu Jiaduo
The first obstacle, before even entering the training arena, was to learn a new language. Quickly adapting, Wu became fluent in German, learning English was the bonus.
Practice made perfect
Contentment came to her in Germany, where was based near Grenzau with first class training facilities close-by. Competing on the then named ITTF Pro Tour, she was the runner up in Berlin in 2008.
“I like the lifestyle, I feel free, the surroundings are good. Practising and training is no problem. If I cannot play, I’m bored and telephoning home can be very expensive. In China everything is geared for table tennis, the surroundings are right, it is a table tennis environment and you can always practise for five or six hours per day; when I came to Germany I found that sometimes I could only practise for one hour a day, to be a good player you must train a minimum of four hours each day.” Wu Jiaduo
Her overall knowledge of the sport came from her training and her persistent practice sessions. The love for the sport of table tennis made the effort worthwhile.
At the time, she was dedicated into her performances being a leading players in the Bundesliga, which itself presented her with a challenge which she undoubtedly responded to:
“The Bundesliga is very strong, there are no weak teams, in many other countries in Europe there might be only one or two good teams but in Germany all the matches are tough and that’s good for me.” Wu Jiaduo
A challenging style of play
Wu Jiaduo was always a fast close to the table, attacking player who used short pimples, RITC Friendship, on the forehand and a reversed Butterfly Sriver L on the backhand.
“I’m not a very powerful player, so the coach in China told me I had to rely on speed, so that’s why I use the short pimples on the forehand” Wu Jaiduo
Undoubtedly a very popular member of FSV Kroppach, she played alongside Nicole Struse, Jie Schöpp and Galina Melnik. Wu was the number one player in the team, the player who set the example for others to follow.
“When everyone else has finished training, she always stays to practise, she will stay behind with my wife, Jie, and train after the session has finished!” Karl Schöpp.
Wu’s attitude remains something from which players of all ages can learn; such was the case for everyone who saw her play at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. She reached the round of 32 in Beijing. European players had started to adapt to her style but Wu was not too worried.
“European players play differently, they play further back from the table; in China the coach always stressed speed and good use of the legs.” Wu Jaiduo
Speed was the hallmark of her game but the advent of the bigger ball was not necessarily to her liking. Watching her play, you could see as she always stayed close to the table giving her opponent little time to react.
Need to adapt
An adaptation to the new sized ball followed, which made her clearly comfortable against any style of play. She appreciated the qualities of a good coach when such drastic changes were coming into place for the game.
“It is important that the coach shows you how to move and what you have to do to move faster. My goal is to play as well as I can. And my coach has to help me do that” Wu Jaiduo
Certainly, that is very good advice for coaches everywhere. Any good teacher shows the pupil what to do, telling someone is simply not as effective. The results of that were effective for Wu when she won at the European Championships in Stuggart in 2009, followed by a bronze medal at the 2010 World Team Championships in Moscow.
Wu was grateful for the support she received, always looking to extend her knowledge by visiting other countries and playing against the very best at the London 2012 Olympic Games, where she reached the round of 16.
The challenges kept following her wherever she went, leading by and setting the example.