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In 2019, this national paddler became the first Singapore-born table tennis player to win SEA Games Gold in the Men’s Singles. Photos: Instagram/@koenpan._.g

Singapore Sportstar Spotlight: Koen Pang Smashes His Way To The Top

How many of us can say we've experienced a meteoric rise in our careers - in our teens? One individual who can boast such a thing is national paddler Koen Pang, who turned 20 in May.

Koen recently won three medals at the recent SEA Games in Hanoi – Gold in Mixed Doubles (teaming with Wong Xin Ru), Bronze in the Men’s Doubles (paired with Joshua Chua), and another Bronze in the Men’s Team event. In the lead up to the games, he was still doing his national service. Talk about dedication to the sport!

The current world No. 115 (as of 19 July International Table Tennis Federation rankings) has set his sights on breaking into the Top 100.

Character bio: Koen first started playing the game at the age of five, joining his mother and elder brother in playing recreational table tennis. He later enrolled into the Singapore Sports School in 2015.

Koen also did gymnastics when he was younger, but dropped the sport to focus fully on table tennis when he was 10.

His favourite table tennis player: former world No. 1 Timo Boll.

Fun fact: Koen's favourite food is char siew rice because he ❤️ the sauce and he doesn’t need to remove any bones.

Achievement unlocked: 2019 was the year Koen truly lived up to the hype. He became the first Singaporean to top a table tennis world ranking - No. 1 on the Under-18 boys' list. He also became the first Singapore-born table tennis player to win SEA Games Gold in the Men’s Singles. 

He capped off the year by winning the junior boys' doubles Bronze at the World Junior Table Tennis Championships in Korat, Thailand, teaming up with Joshua Chua. It was Singapore’s first medal in the competition.

In 2021, he reached the Top 32 at the World Table Tennis Championships in Houston, USA, defeating Brazilian Gustavo Tsuboi (then ranked 38th) 4-2. He eventually lost to his idol, former world No. 1 Timo Boll. And, guess what, he did this while doing national service. Ups lah!

Serving the nation: Koen enlisted for full-time national service as an infantry trooper on July 2020 with the 1st Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (1 SIR).

During his NS stint, Corporal (CPL) (NS) Koen Pang kept training at the Singapore Table Tennis Association after booking out during weekends or days-off on weekdays, and continued to rep our colours (such as at the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships).

During his enlistment, he was awarded the 2020 Sportsboy of the Year at the Singapore Sports Awards and the 2021 NSF Of The Year by the Singapore Army. The latter honour is given to exceptional full-time national service members who have shown professionalism, leadership, and good behaviour during their national service.

In an interview with the Singapore Sports School, Koen said: “It is definitely challenging to balance both National Service and sport but you have to find time to train and make things work. I have learnt to be more disciplined, to persevere through hard times and learnt how to manage my time properly.”

His ORD was in May this year, and he aims to play competitively throughout 2022 before hitting the books and focusing on his studies.

Level up: Koen aims to win at the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK and Asian Games in Hangzhou China. He also wants to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

The potential this Singapore sportstar has is limitless, and we're certain he has what it takes to smash his way to the top of the table tennis world stage.

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