SINGAPORE - With the score tied at 2-2, nerves were jangling among all the paddlers in the Schools National Table Tennis Team Championships B Division final yesterday.
But it was Victoria School's (VS) Wu Jia Qi who kept his cool at the Pasir Ris Sports and Recreation Centre to clinch the fifth and deciding match against Raffles Institution's (RI) Wu Wen Gang for his school's first-ever title.
Not that it was the 17-year-old's first time playing a do-or-die match; in fact, he had already done so in the previous four team ties, winning three times.
Ironically, his sole defeat was against RI in the round-robin quarter-final stage, with Victoria losing 2-3 last month.
"It was a setback for me to lose the deciding point against Raffles at the time," said Jia Qi. "But, with the encouragement and help of my coaches, friends and teachers, I managed to correct my errors."
After last month's defeat by RI, he went on to take the decisive third point in victories against St Joseph's Institution and Maris Stella High School in the round-robin stage, and also in the semi-final against Fuhua Secondary School.
Victoria captain Ho Yi Jing, 16, noted that Jia Qi was always tasked to win the fifth and final point as "he is one of the most stable players in the team". Nevertheless, Jia Qi still felt nervous in yesterday's final but credited his team-mates' help in overcoming the jitters.
He said: "There was pressure to win since VS had never won the B Division title before but I knew they would not blame me even if I lost, which helped to lift some pressure."
It was a first B Division title for Victoria since the sport was introduced there in 1956. Yi Jing said: "After losing the final to RI last year, we had extra motivation to win it. And I am elated that we did it."
RI were hampered by the absence of Youth Olympics-bound Yin Jing Yuan, who failed to recover from an arm strain suffered in last week's individual championships. But the school successfully defended the boys' A and C Division titles as well as the girls' A Division one.
A Div - Boys: Raffles Institution (RI)
B Div - Boys: Victoria School
Girls: Raffles Girls' School
C Div - Boys: RI
Girls: Singapore Sports School
This article was published on April 23 in The Straits Times.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.