When every country is out to invite a Chinese table tennis player with open arms, surprisingly a player of Indian origin in the New Zealand women's team here for the Commonwealth Championships has come in for praise from her highly-rated Chinese coach.
Armindeep Singh, a third generation Sikh based in Hamilton, is part of the five-member New Zealand team including Sarah Lee-Her, Ruofei Rao, Natalie Patterson and coach Chun Li, a former World No 19.
"She is consistent and is highly dedicated. Though she still has a long way to go, I see a spark in her and she is improving remarkably well," said Chun Li.
The entire New Zealand contingent, including Armindeep, feel they are lucky to have the services of Chun Li.
Armindeep is eager to make the most of the opportunity she got thanks to the withdrawal of two top players owing to family commitments.
"I have been to India before, but this is the first time I am here on an official assignment. I see a lot of people are interested in my performance," a smiling Armindeep told IANS during a break in training at the Thyagaraj Stadium here.
It has been a path-breaking journey for the 24-year-old, whose family, whether in Jalandhar (India) or New Zealand, have been involved with dairy farming for decades.
Table tennis is her biggest passion and she hopes to continue playing for as long as she enjoys.
"I picked up the game from my dad," she said.
How big is table tennis back home?
"The game is not that big. Most of the learning is done when you come for international events like these. So the more events we go to, the better we get," said Armindeep, who rates her participation in the 2009 World Championships as the highlight of her career so far.
Besides that, she has competed in multiple World University Championships and looks forward to another in Russia later this year.
Armindeep is determined to achieve more before she runs out of time.
"I want to be number one player from New Zealand. At the same time, I know that when my studies get over, I will have to work for a living. There is hardly any money in table tennis," said the management student from Waikato University.
Born and brought up in New Zealand, can she connect with India and Punjab?
"I see myself as a New Zealander, but I respect India and its culture. My mother was born here," she says with a grin.