There are two contrasting faces of the amazing Li Chunli.
Action photos reveal the fierce determination of a world class table tennis player. Away from the table, the diminutive Li's smile lights up a room, accompanied by an effervescence that never runs dry.
Her eponymous table tennis club, a hole-in-the-wall deal at the Lagoon Stadium in Panmure, feels alive in her presence, even though it is deserted when we meet. The game is her life, and this is the humble base for her latest, age-defying tilt at the top.
Li and her traditional Chinese, attack-orientated pen-hold grip style are on a remarkable comeback trail. At 52, yes 52, she will head the Kiwi table tennis team in this physically exhausting sport at next month's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Twelve years after triumphing at Manchester -- where singles gold and three other medals at the ripe age of 40 made her a Halberg finalist -- the four time Olympian has her sights on the podium at an age when others suffer tweaks doing the gardening.
"Most players in my club are older -- the oldest is 67," she says with rapid fire enthusiasm.
"I want to become their role model. Don't be afraid, don't be nervous. At this age, you can still do many things including competing. Be happy. Enjoy life."
Whereas others in the 50-plus category might be upgrading their first pair of prescription glasses, Li doesn't need to wear any. A shoulder injury has been overcome and if she regains best form, Li will continue past the Glasgow Games.
Raised in Guiping, a "town" in southern China, she toured New Zealand with a Chinese junior team and returned in her mid-20s to coach in Manawatu. She studied at university but opted to rely on her strongest suit.
It gave New Zealand a world class performer -- she was a national team member of table tennis superpower China, was twice that country's mixed doubles champion, reached a world ranking of 19 and made a World Cup semifinal in 1997.
At her financial peak, during a few of the nine years spent playing in the Japan league, she earned near $180,000 a season and had the permits to stay as a coach but answered the New Zealand table tennis call instead.
"They wanted me to help find a winning model," says Li, who quit all tournament play to concentrate on the, at times, frustrating task of national coach after the 2004 Athens Olympics.
"I lost a lot of money coming back but I wanted to help. New Zealand supported me and let my Olympic dream come true when I was selected for Barcelona in 1992. It has been hard financially sometimes."
When the national squad was disbanded at one point, she set up a table tennis uniform company which, along with the club, keeps her going financially.
Li lives alone, and has never married. Her last relationship ended when she went to the Japan league.
"I wish like many people to have had a family but I don't feel lonely when I have table tennis," she says.
"I didn't want a family if it meant stopping table tennis. I might have found somebody but unfortunately I was not that lucky. Table tennis means I don't have much chance to go out, to meet someone I might like."
Her sister Karen Li, also in the team to Glasgow and the only New Zealand player even remotely in her class, moved to Melbourne two years ago when her husband found a job there. Li's parents are in their 80s, she misses them terribly and says their support has been the bedrock of her career.
Her mother visited Auckland last year, accompanied by Li's nephew Junqing Cao. On finding he was a terrific player, Li persuaded him to stay as her training partner and hopes he can get residency.