MALAYSIA’S youngest competitor at the Commonwealth Games, 15-year-old Karen Lyne, has proven to be a prized catch.
The debutant combined superbly with 22-year-old Ho Ying to provide one of the biggest surprises of the Games by winning a bronze medal in the table tennis women’s doubles competition.
The Sarawakian is the third youngest Malaysian to finish with a medal at the Games.
Only divers Bryan Nickson Lomas (2006 Melbourne) and Nur Dhabitah Sabri (2014 Glasgow) were younger when they won Commonwealth Games medals.
The left-handed Miri girl certainly doesn’t regret picking up the sport competitively.
“I started playing table tennis when I was nine. My mother enjoys playing table tennis and I used to follow her around,” said Karen.
“I was then given lessons and I quickly fell in love with the sport.
“The sport has certainly taught me to be persistent with whatever I do and not to give up easily.”
Persistence is certainly her strong point as it was reflected during the bronze-medal playoff against India’s M. Sutirtha-S. Pooja.
“It’s my first major event. I never expected to reach the semi-finals. It was a pleasant surprise,” said Karen.
National head coach Beh Lee Wei believes Ho Ying-Karen’s feat of winning table tennis’ first individual medal augurs well for the sport’s development.
“Karen has potential but she needs to work hard because this kind of success is short term,” said Lee Wei.
“Our decision to send a squad is justified because the National Sports Council (NSC) initially did not agree as we could not promise a medal.”
The Table Tennis Association of Malaysia (TTAM) can also draw comfort from 17-year-old Alice Chang’s inspiring performance in the singles when she gave Singapore’s Zhou Yihan, who competed at the Rio Olympics, a run for her money before losing in seven games in the last eight.
With more funding and support, table tennis will only show more improvement in the years to come.