Li and Li – Jiawei engaged (The Sunday Times, 5 Oct 2008)

Table tennis star falls for Beijing businessman with same surname

 

Following a six-month whirlwind romance, Li Jiawei is set to tie the knot.

The China-born Singaporean table tennis star registered her marriage with a Beijing-based businessman in the Chinese capital last Friday.

The news was a surprise to many, coming so soon after Li and national badminton player Ronald Susilo called off their engagement in January.

The Sunday Times understands that Li’s new love interest is in his mid-30s and shares her surname.

Li, who led the women’s table tennis team to Singapore’s first Olympic medal in 48 years two months ago, told the media from Beijing: ‘I’m delighted and feel very blessed.

‘But this doesn’t count as a real marriage yet, it’s just an engagement. Only when we have had a proper banquet will it count. This won’t come so soon though, because I have several competitions coming up and I will focus on them first.’

Sources said Li was initially drawn to the fact that the businessman shares her surname after they were introduced by a mutual friend in March.

She had long wished that her children would also carry her surname. She had even toyed with the idea of having one child bear her surname and another carry her husband’s.

Getting hitched to the businessman will present the perfect scenario.

But more importantly, her new partner provided a listening ear and was a source of comfort for the 27-year-old, who had to endure a turbulent couple of months.

After breaking up with Susilo, 29, in January, the former golden couple of Singapore sports were embroiled in an ugly spat which has since been settled out of court.

Susilo was reportedly considering legal action to recover money put into a condominium unit and car they had bought together during the five-and-a-half year relationship.

The national shuttler was said to be seeking between $50,000 and $100,000.

Li had paid an estimated six-figure downpayment of the estimated $600,000 condominium in 2004. Susilo paid the bulk of the cost of the $80,000 Honda Civic.

Li questioned the timing of the legal action and whether Susilo was trying to affect her Olympic preparations. She also denied having ever been engaged to him, and said that her parents did not approve of the shuttler.

Susilo, who has been linked with singer Kelly Poon of Project Superstar fame, could not be reached yesterday.

Those close to Li said one condition her parents – a Beijing government official and housewife – laid down for their only child was that her future husband must buy a house after they got married.

Her present beau, who is said to have considerably more earning power than Susilo, can now provide that.

Li said her fiance’s dedication and concern were other plus points.

Known to enjoy being pampered by those around her, the world No. 6 said: ‘When I was sick, he specially flew from Beijing to Singapore just to see me.’

The businessman has been here several times and accompanied Li to places like the Esplanade and Marina Bay.

The last time he flew here was a few weeks ago.

He spent several days with her, and the pair returned to Beijing together around Sept 20.

During the Beijing Olympics, she even took him as a guest into the Athletes’ Village where he was introduced to Singapore team officials and athletes.

A close friend of Li said: ‘She always gushes about how he would provide strong emotional support when she was down, whether it was because of table tennis matters or other aspects of her life.

‘She’s the sort who always needs a pillar of strength, and this man has proven to her he can be that.’

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