Beiwen Zhang has had her share of struggles along the way to make it to the start line of her first Olympic Games, but as the American prepares for Tokyo 2020, she swears she has no regrets about the path she’s braved.
Zhang has adapted to every challenge thrown her way – from representing Singapore, becoming a self-funded independent athlete to a relocation to Las Vegas. The recently turned 31-year-old now realises it’s the journey, not the destination, that guides her strength.
“It’s been bumpy. At first it wasn’t easy. From 2012 to 2015, I was fighting with myself because it was so hard,” the world No.14 revealed.
“Every time I wanted to do something, it wasn’t easy. I didn’t have a coach and had to fix everything myself. I wanted to give up a lot of times. During those three years, it was the longest I didn’t play badminton, at least three months, because I didn’t have a way or the means to train. Training overseas costs money. I had financial issues.”
Having taken on daily badminton coaching to help fund her career and with Tokyo 2020 around the corner, the China-born is excited for what’s ahead. Zhang has been training at the National Centre of Excellence in Denmark with fellow Olympians the past few weeks.
“We are all looking forward to the Olympics but my goal is not just to participate. I want to see the highest point I can reach. I’m not looking to qualify for Tokyo 2020 and retire. I want more,” the 2021 Pan Am champion enthused.
With sparring partners like Mauritius’ Georges Julien Paul and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team’s Aram Mahmoud, Zhang settled in well into the training camp.
“They put me in a guy’s team, I didn’t really request,” giggled Zhang. “It’s fun. I’m easy to get along with. I have a big heart, but I also have a man’s personality. So it’s pretty easy to train with the guys.”
As Zhang readies herself for the biggest event of her life, the support of her family remains a huge part of her network.
“My family has always supported me, reminding me not to have regrets when I’m older. I don’t, I just do what I want. Of course, my parents want me to be happy. Even after going through financial problems. I’m so happy to be doing the job I’m doing. I like it. I love it.”
A fan of Japanese anime and music, Zhang is excited heading to Tokyo.
“Sometimes I just hang out in my room and watch anime even though I’m in my 30s,” she laughs.