Liu Jia, an Austrian table tennis player, is going for gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but the Chinese-born competitor is facing a somewhat strange demand from her young daughter. “Lose quickly,” Jia’s daughter told her before she flew to Japan for the global competition. After moving to the Round of 16 on Tuesday, the athlete has some serious decision making to do.
Jia is paddling her way to Olympic victory this week, having just defeated South Korea’s Jeon Ji-hee in the singles event on Tuesday. Though the pressure is mounting for her to take home the gold, there’s even more pressure for her to lose.
While Austria is not in favor of Jia throwing her next match, the table tennis player’s daughter has her own opinions. According to Liu Jia, her daughter doesn’t care if she wins the competition or goes home empty-handed. Instead, her daughter just wants Jia back.
“My daughter doesn’t care [if I win],” the 39-year-old Lui Jia told Reuters. “She’s not the least bit bothered. For her, it’s all about me going home as soon as possible. When she heard that I’m facing China in the team event she was especially happy. She said, ‘Lose quickly and come home.’”
While it’s not the kind of sentiment athletes want to hear ahead of a big match, the Austrian table tennis player knows how difficult her absence has been for her daughter. “I can understand that,” Liu Jia admitted, though she doesn’t think she’s going to listen to the advice – Jia wants to win.
Originally from China, Liu Jia moved to Austria when she was very young, according to reports. The table tennis player said she moved from her home country because of the competitive nature surrounding the sport in China. Despite moving from the region, the Chinese-born player has kept up her own level of competition. Ranked number 25 in the world, Jia has proved to herself that she can handle the heat.
So far in Tokyo 2020, Jia has roughed up three excellent competitors. She defeated the Games’ youngest athlete, Hend Zaza from Syria, who is only 12. The Austrian athlete won the first-round match 4-0 in a game she claimed was “a match between two flag bearers.”
Zaza is a table tennis prodigy who said Jia was a “tough” and “experienced” opponent. The 12-year-old admitted that the match was a “good lesson for her.” Commenting on her victory against Zaza, Jia said that “there’s sport and there’s life. There are people who have to endure difficulties. They are amazing, it hasn’t been easy for them. She’s a girl too — to be in an Olympics at 12, in my heart I really admire her.”
Liu Jia also defeated 20-year-old Adriana Diaz in spectacular fashion in a singles event. The Austrian athlete has been doing so well, she even feels bad about it.
“It seems like I’m bullying the young players,” Jia said on Tuesday after defeating Puerto Rico’s Adrianna Diaz. “I controlled her, didn’t give her the opportunity to attack. I played well, although I got nervous at the end. I felt like I was going to pee when I got close to victory.”
As she moves into the next stage of the competition, Liu Jia is staying focused. While her daughter has begged her to lose quickly and come home, that doesn’t seem like it’s part of the plan. “Kids have very simple thinking. Win or lose, just come home. Coming home is the key for them,” Jia explained.
Though she claimed she doesn’t take it too personally, the table tennis player is trying hard to do the opposite of what her daughter has suggested. While she loves and misses her daughter, winning gold at the Olympics is an opportunity Jia won’t give up for anyone.