By: 永久浪客/Forever Vagabond
An earlier article reported about the tale of 2 Singaporean Olympic medalists – table tennis player Li Jiawei and swimmer Joseph Schooling (https://theindependent.sg.sg/
Li won her first medal, a silver, in 2008 Beijing Olympics while Schooling won his gold in current Rio Olympics. But the route towards winning their medal is very different.
Li was trained with generous allowance and support in Singapore under the Foreign Sports Talent Scheme. Two years ago when MP Lee Bee Wah was stepping down as STTA President, she proclaimed that she left STTA in prime financial health, with nearly $10 million raised during her tenure. Even PM Lee came to show support in her fund raising events.
In the case of Schooling, it was reported in the media that his parents had to sell their private home so as to raise the necessary money for him to train in US. They now live in a modest HDB flat in Marine Parade.
MP Lee Bee Wah attends Li’s grand wedding in Beijing
In 2008 after the Beijing Olympics, Li married a Beijing businessman. There was a grand banquet held at a posh hotel in Beijing the following year. In an interview with the media, her husband said, “When I first met her, she looked like she needed someone to take care of her. I am that person.”
It was also reported in China media that Lee Bee Wah attended Li’s wedding. She flew to Beijing to give a speech to some 600 guests at the wedding.
She told the reporters from the China media that it was like marrying off her “own daughter” and she wanted Li to give her a “grandchild” by year end. Li later gave birth to a son.
At the wedding banquet, Li wore a 40kg wedding gown laced with crystals (40公斤重的水晶婚纱). Li and her husband arrived in a long black Lincoln limousine.
Lee Bee Wah spoke to the guests in a speech, “I feel like marrying off my own daughter. I am very excited and very happy.” (我的心情就像自己嫁女儿一样，非常激动、非常兴奋、非常高兴)
“I also want Li Chao (Li’s husband) to take good care of Jiawei. She is a well-known sports star in Singapore. She has contributed a lot to Singapore in the past few years.”
On behalf of DPM Teo Chee Hean, Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister of State Teo Ser Luck, she wished Li happiness and blessings.
She later told reporters that when she flew to Beijing the previous day, she had personally handed a large gift and red packet to Li. She added that it was the grandest and most lavish wedding banquet she had ever attended.
When asked what exactly she gave Li, Lee Bee Wah asked the reporters to find out for themselves from Li. They later found out that Lee Bee Wah had given Li a 4-figure red packet.
She was also asked about her “carrying grandchild” remark during her speech. She replied that she hoped to carry Li’s child as soon as possible. She said, “Better if could carry (Li’s child) this year (2009). Doesn’t matter if it’s a boy or girl as long as it is healthy.” (今年抱得到更好，无论是男是女，只要是健康的宝宝就好)
Many Chinese celebrities had attended Li’s wedding banquet, including popular Chinese comedian Zhao Benshan (赵本山).
Li’s retires to Beijing
On 27 Dec 2012, Li finally announced her retirement after the London Olympics. Wiping away tears at a press conference as she received a hug from Lee Bee Wah, she said, “I’ve dedicated 18 years of my life to the sport, and I will always be grateful to Singapore for believing in me.”
When asked what she would do after her retirement, she said, “I would go mad if I have to think about table tennis every day again.”
She told everyone that she would be living in Beijing together with her husband and son. In all, she earned an estimated $1.27 million from cash awards by playing for Singapore.
Meanwhile, another controversy appears to have erupted online when MP Lee Bee Wah said that she was glad that she asked MINDEF to let Schooling defer his NS. Her online remark came after Schooling won a gold medal at the 100m butterfly event in Rio Olympics.Popular blogger Mr Brown then asked her, “Lee Bee Wah, please share with us a detailed breakdown of how you secured NS deferment for Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, since you seem very convinced about your monumental contribution.”
“Because my understanding is that their parents negotiated with Mindef at a personal level. But hey, you seem to be claiming credit too, so we would love to hear how much you did for them,” he added in a sarcastic tone.