“Injury phobia, victory elixir it’ll grow on you”

‘Pee-wee’ Shin Yubin’s rise to prominence
Rising to No. 9 in the world on a winning streak
“I need to perfect my rallying skills.
“We need to beat the strongest teams at the Asian Games in September”

South Korean women’s table tennis standout Shin Yoo-bin (Korean Air) poses for the cameras as she prepares to serve a forehand at her team’s Incheon training center on Monday. “The more I learn about table tennis, the more I see the gaps I need to fill,” Shin said, vowing to be more delicate and powerful than before at the Hangzhou Asian Games in September. Incheon=Younghan Jeon scoopjyh@donga.com

“What if I get hurt here again?”

Shin Yubin (19, Korean Air) felt a tingling sensation in her right wrist before the first round of the Durban 2023 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Championships on May 20. When we met at the team’s training center in Incheon on May 17, Shin admitted that she had to battle with “injury memories” even before the tournament began.

“The first time I injured my wrist was in the first round of the World Championships two years ago,” she said, “so there was no place on my body that didn’t hurt before the competition, and I was worried, ‘If I get hurt again at this competition, I’ll really fall apart.'”

Shin suffered from wrist pain after suffering a stress fracture in his first round singles match at the 2021 World Championships in Houston. He made a comeback at the World Table Tennis (WTT) Feeder Series in May last year, but the pain returned and he underwent surgery to put a pin in his carpal bone. The pain returned in late September, forcing her to withdraw from the Asian Championships in October.

“Luckily, this time it was fake pain, and after I won the first game (4-1), I was really happy because I thought, ‘Well, at least I did better than last time,’ and then the worry and the pain just disappeared like a lie, and from the third game on, it was like the night before a picnic, and I was like, ‘I can’t wait for tomorrow,’ and I fell asleep.”

Shin eventually made it to the round of 16 (four rounds) in singles at the event, which was her second World Championships appearance. The doubles results were even better. Shin paired with Jeon Jeon-hee (31-Mirae Asset Securities) to win the silver medal. It was South Korea’s best result in world-class women’s doubles since winning gold in New Delhi in 1987.

The last time Shin was completely free of the fear of injury was at the WTT Lagos Contender last month, when the then world No. 20 found herself down 0-2 to Chinese Taipei’s Lee Yu-jun (25-TAIWAN-71) in the first round of the singles event.

“I was so focused on avoiding injuries that there was no room in my mind to think about ‘how to hit technically,’ and I realized that I had gotten into the habit of just using my reflexes to beat my opponent because I was worried about my wrist. I thought, ‘If I keep playing table tennis like this, I’m going to be in trouble.'”

In a ‘eureka’ moment, Shin rallied from a 3-2 deficit against Li Yujun to take the third through fifth sets and eventually win the tournament. She followed that up with a runner-up finish in Tunis and a quarterfinal appearance in Zagreb to improve her world ranking to No. 9. This is the first time Shin Yubin has been ranked in the top 10.

“At the beginning of this year, I thought I would be able to reach around 13th place if I played well, but my ranking went up faster than I expected. I think if I get stronger in the future, my ranking will naturally go up.”

Shin’s next goal is to reach the podium at the Hangzhou Asian Games, which kick off in September. While the events for each athlete are still being finalized, Shin’s 7-0 record at this year’s national team trials means that she will likely compete in all events, including singles, doubles, mixed doubles, and team events.

“My coach Kim Kyung-ah (46) says that my rallying ability is stable, but I think I need to perfect my rallying ability even more than I have now to be able to win against top players at the Asian Games, so I’ve been working on my steps so that I can steadily receive the opponent’s ball no matter how far away I am from the table.”

Xin missed last year’s national team selection due to a wrist injury. However, she was able to punch her ticket to Hangzhou after the Asian Games were postponed for a year due to the ongoing outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in China.

“It’s a golden opportunity for me to go to the Asian Games after the re-selection, and now that my body is fine and I’ve gotten over the trauma, 스포츠토토 I’ll repay all my table tennis fans with a medal!”

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