For South Korean table tennis player Shin Yu-bin, suffering a wrist injury toward the end of 2021 might have seemed like a career-derailing event at the time.
Nearly two years later, Shin is gearing up for her first Asian Games, having been able to use the time on the sidelines wisely to work on different elements of her game. The 19-year-old now believes it will serve her well at the Asiad in Hangzou, China, starting next month.
Shin, one of South Korea's rising stars in ping pong, suffered a stress fracture in her right wrist during the world championships in November 2021. The injury prevented Shin from competing in the national team trials in January 2022, which in turn ruled her out of the Asian Games set for September that year in Hangzhou.
However, the Asian Games were postponed by one year due to the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It gave Shin, who underwent surgery in May 2022 and then another procedure four months later to remove bone fragments, a second chance.
Shin has made the most of her new life so far, winning the national team trials in March this year to grab a ticket to the Asian Games. She has won multiple titles at the World Table Tennis Contender events since last fall and teamed up with Jeon Ji-hee to win the women's doubles silver medal at the world championships in May this year.
"I've been fortunate that the Asian Games were postponed by one year, and I've been given an opportunity to play," Shin said Thursday before an open training session at the National Training Center in the central county of Jincheon. "I am happy to be training for the Asian Games, and I am excited about my first one."
While recovering from wrist surgery, Shin said she spent time in the gym trying to strengthen her lower body and did plenty of running to improve her conditioning.
"Over the past year or so, I think I've gained more power and agility," Shin added.
Shin is no stranger to big competitions. She already made her Olympic debut at age 17 in Tokyo two years ago. She became the youngest South Korean table tennis player to compete at an Olympics.
She was knocked out in the third round of the women's singles, and her South Korean team was sent packing in the quarterfinals. Shin said Thursday she can't wait to demonstrate how far she has come since then.
"A lot of time has passed since the Tokyo Olympics, and I think I've become a better player," she said. "I want to put on a better performance and show off my techniques."
Shin said she doesn't think she will be particularly bothered by the partisan Chinese crowd at the Asian Games because she will be too caught up in her own game to pay attention to noise from the stands.
"I think I will be most concerned about myself," she said. ""How I perform is entirely up to myself. I will just have to concentrate on improving my game."
When it comes to winning medals, Shin said she won't be picky.
"I want to do well in every event I play in," Shin said. "I want to push myself as far as I can." (Yonhap)