Golden Opportunity: Wang Hao, Table Tennis
The Olympic Review continues its countdown to the 2012 Olympic Games in London by speaking to stars.Having won singles silver in 2004 and 2008, China’s Wang Hao is targeting Olympic gold in London as he seeks to complete the career ‘Grand Slam’ following his World Cup and World Championship titles.
How important is it to be top of the ITTF World Rankings?
I think the number one spot gives me confidence, and it also gives me some pressure, although the latter is not a bad thing. I am aware that my opponents are studying me carefully and so forth, but I am used to it. I need this spot to motivate myself.
Who will be your biggest competitors at the Olympic Games in London?
Basically, all participants are good, but I am not intimidated by them. As a two-time runner-up in the Olympic singles, I have been there and know how to adjust under such circumstances.
Have you spent much time in London?
I have never been to London actually, although I am eager to visit. I know it is a world-famous city with a rich culture. Hopefully, I can attend the year-end ITTF Pro Tour Finals to get a feel for the city.
How did you start playing table tennis?
I was introduced to the sport by my father. He sent me to the local children’s centre to try out after seeing a TV advertisement about recruiting young kids to play table tennis. The rest is history.
Who were your heroes growing up and who do you hope to emulate now?
Liu Guoliang. He was, and still is, my role model.
How much would winning that Olympic gold medal and completing the Grand Slam mean to you?
It would be the pinnacle of my career. Everyone would like to reach the highest point of his or her career. To me, this is it.
Why do you prefer the pen-hold grip?
It was decided long ago by my first coach. I was only seven, too young to make a choice by myself then. I don’t know what I would have become had I chosen to play handshake style.
Is it important for young players to use you as a role model and adopt this style?
Not really. They may learn part of my style, but not all of it. After all, younger players need to learn the best from other first-class players like Ma Lin, Wang Liqin and Ma Long. They all have their forte. The younger generations should be even better than us.
What have been your biggest challenges in getting to the pinnacle of your sport?
I have been through so many ups and downs and been under a lot of pressure. Nevertheless, pressure can be converted into motivation. At this stage, I am still very much motivated to do the best I can.
What is your proudest sporting achievement?
I guess it would be the 2009 World Championship singles title. I have won almost all the titles I went after, including the Beijing 2008 Olympic team event. However, the Olympic singles title has eluded me.
What does an average training week consist of with less than one year to go?
I have been training more than I did in the past. I am very demanding of myself. I only take Sunday off, and the rest is all training time. Normally, two hours in the morning and then three hours in the afternoon.
Do you use any social media to keep in touch with fans?
I do, but I am not that obsessed with it any more. Occasionally I write about my training, mood, and what I do off the court to share with fans.
What music helps you to focus and train?
I love Tibetan and Inner Mongolian songs, especially prairie songs. They make me feel relaxed and help me understand more things in life.