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An Interview with Golden Boy Izaac Quek

Student Feature: Izaac Quek Yong

It has been a short five months since the year started, but paddler Izaac Quek Yong has notched one milestone after another. He and Koen Pang broke into the top 100 in world rankings after their wonderful performance at the Singapore Smash in March. He came into the spotlight in recent times for his extraordinary performance his first 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games where he swept 3 gold medals. At just 16 years old during the SEA Games, he outperformed more experienced players en route to winning all the titles that he played for. With his cool and composed performance during the finals, Izaac became the first local-born paddler to win the Men’s Singles title after winning 4-0. He also stood at the top of the podium for Men’s Doubles and Men’s Team events. He is currently the highest-ranked local paddler at World No. 66. in the ITTF world rankings.

We caught up with Izaac Quek to find out more about his SEA Games experience and the secret to his success.

1) Sweeping all the gold medals in the events that you participated at your first SEA Games is simply awe-inspiring! What is your secret to success?

Izaac: I think there is no secret. Hard work is still the most important, and you have to put in the effort to get results. I also had to go through a period of losing many matches to achieve the success this time. I would say to not give up when facing setbacks and try to learn as much from each loss.

2) Please describe to us the moment when the game ended and you were crowned the youngest and first Singaporean paddler to win the Men's Singles at the SEA Games.

Izaac: It was a shocking moment and I just couldn’t believe it happened. I wasn’t thinking much of winning the match but after the last point all the thoughts came in and I just couldn’t believe it. I was really happy and relieved that all the hard work had paid off.

3) Being a 16-year-old during the competition, I am sure you faced the mental pressure of going up against older and more experienced players. But you looked extremely cool and composed! How do you deal with nerves during competition?

Izaac: I don’t think being young is a bad thing, that helps me tell myself to have no pressure and try to learn from all the older and more experienced players. Everyone feels nervous before the match and have different ways to cope with it. I try to focus on my rituals that I do before every game and during the game. That helps me keep my mind off the stress and focus more on tactics.

4) You have been growing from strength to strength recently. Your rankings went up after the Singapore Smash, and you have produced good results in other competitions. What do you think has led to your recent rise in the sport?

Izaac: I try not to feel too down after I have been defeated. I started playing senior events last year and I lost almost all my matches at the start. I think of every loss as a learning process and try to think about what I have to do better for each and every game. So, I would say the recent success is only possible because of the whole journey. I also think that putting in hard work after every defeat and not giving up is important.

5) We saw your family support you in Cambodia. Please share with us the role of your parents in your success.

Izaac: Without my parents and my family, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today. They have been supporting me throughout my journey and giving me support no matter what. When I lose an important match, and when I lose despite leading, they were always there to comfort me and always there when I needed help. During the SEA Games, my mom, dad and sister were in Cambodia supporting me and of course, having them while playing matches made me feel more comfortable. I could hear my dad and mom yelling during my matches and that definitely helped motivate me and is one of the reasons why I had such a good tournament.

6) Do have any heroes or role models that you look up to?

Izaac: One of the players I really like in Table Tennis is Felix Lebrun from France. He is the same age as me and I have known him as a friend since young. I really admire him as I like how he doesn’t give up no matter how much he is losing. Even when he is one point from losing the match, he would still continue shouting and motivating himself. I also like how he doesn’t fear to win all the older and stronger opponents he faces and plays like he has no pressure every game.

7) What is your pre-competition routine?

Izaac: Before every match, I would always try to do the same routine. I would be at the hall maybe around 1 hour 45mins before the match. I would start stretching and warming up for around 30mins and start practicing on the table. Then I will practice for about an hour and hand in my racket 20mins before the match. After handing it in, I will go to the toilet, get water and prepare for the game.

8) What's next for you?

Izaac: There are many more WTT competitions and the Asian Games this year. I hope to keep up my ranking and qualify for the Paris Olympic Games. There will also be a World Team Championships coming up next year where the Singapore team will have a chance to qualify for the Olympics as a team.

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