Northern Ireland table tennis star Liu Na was ready to live her Team GB Olympic dream at the ExCel Arena today against North Korea in the first round of the Women’s Team event.
The 29-year-old is the first table tennis player from the province to compete in the Games, after featuring in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Liu, who grew up in the north-eastern province of Liao Ning, first visited Ulster 12 years ago to play in a tournament in Bangor. She enjoyed her experience so much she returned the following year to coach in schools and clubs, while learning English.
Having secured British citizenship in 2008, Liu, who plays full-time with French Pro A side Marmade, was Irish National Champion last year.
Now the long road has led to London 2012, where she is in a three-strong team alongside English team-mates Joanna Parker and Kelly Sibley.
Described as ‘Ireland’s quiet enforcer' by the English Table Tennis Association, Liu, ranked 219th in the world, says: “It has always been my dream to play in the Olympic Games. Competing at the Olympics will be the pinnacle of my career.”
On her home life she adds: “I really like it in Northern Ireland. It's very different from my home on mainland China.
“After 10 years we have more people in Northern Ireland playing table tennis.”
If GB beat North Korea, they will meet either Singapore or Poland in the quarter-finals.