Despite all the pressure, expectations and tight competition schedule, the Singapore table tennis contingent have equalled their best-ever Commonwealth Games haul of six gold medals.
Capping off a largely successful day at the Scoustoun Table Tennis Centre in Glasgow, Scotland yesterday, the top-seeded women's doubles pair of Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu beat Australia's Lay Jian Fang and Miao Miao 3-1(11-5, 8-11, 11-8, 11-5) early this morning (Singapore time) to end a fruitful 10-day outing.
National women's table tennis coach Jing Junhong told The New Paper: "Overall, I think we did very well.
"Most of our key players have had to play many events every day for 10 days in a tight schedule, and it's really not easy.
And it's not as if we only have to show up to win.
"The other countries have improved and put up good fights, and our paddlers deserve credit for holding their nerve and winning six out of the seven golds on offer."
The Republic's dominance in the singles events was never in question as both the men's and women's deciders featured two all-Singaporean finals. In the women's singles final, world No. 4 Feng beat 10th-ranked Yu 4-1 (11-7, 11-8, 11-9, 10-12, 11-2), and there was also a pleasing bronze for 18-year-old world No. 41 Lin Ye, who beat Australian Lay 4-1 (11-5, 11-4, 11-7, 11-7) in the bronze-medal play-off.
"I'm happy for Lin Ye because this is her first outing in a major Games of this magnitude," said Jing.
"I hope Tianwei, Mengyu and Lin Ye can form our next women's team that can defend our Olympic bronze medal in Rio.
But there're two years to go and they still have a long way to get there. "Other countries will continue to improve and push us, and it's still early to say what will happen in 2016."
In the men's singles, world No. 12 Gao Ning and world No. 34 Zhan Jian met in the final early this morning after coming through the semi-finals in contrasting fashion.
Gao was pushed to the limit by England's world No. 59 Liam Pitchford, whom he has a 2-1 losing head-to-head record against prior to last night's meeting.
The 21-year-old England No. 1 went 3-2 up before Gao turned on the heat and prevailed 4-3 (11-8, 11-13, 14-12, 6-11, 10-12, 11-7, 11-6) in 64 minutes.
Zhan had a far easier run-out as he made light work of India's Sharath Kamal Achanta to win 4-0 (11-6, 11-6, 11-6, 11-8).
National men's table tennis coach Yang Chuanning told TNP: "I thought Gao Ning won beautifully.
Pitchford is our strongest opponent in the men's singles and Gao Ning did great to withstand the pressure and fight back to win the match."
While Singapore could not complete a clean sweep - none of their four mixed doubles pairs made it to the final for the first time since table tennis became a Commonwealth sport in 2002 - they created a more positive slice of history by winning the men's doubles gold for the first time.
Despite losing the first game, Gao and Li Hu bounced back to beat India's Achanta and Amalraj Anthony Arputharaj in the final 3-1 (8-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-5) yesterday morning.
Zhan and Yang Zi took bronze after winning a gruelling encounter against England's Paul Drinkhall and Pitchford 3-2 (11-6, 12-10, 7-11, 8-11, 12-10).
The only blemish on the paddlers' scorecard came in the mixed doubles, where top seeds Zhan and Feng lost 3-1 (11-5, 9-11, 7-11, 10-12) to England's Danny Reed and Kelly Sibley to miss out on a bronze medal.
"That came as a surprise, but you have to understand there's a lot of difference between singles and doubles and this is the first time they are playing as a pair at a major Games, so their chemistry and positioning were not as good as we would have liked," said Jing.
"England obviously came into the tournament prepared to do well in the doubles and they finished with three pairs in the final four."
Yang added: "There's definitely room for improvement. For the men, we have to improve on our fitness and killer instincts."
With the men's singles gold guaranteed, the Singapore paddlers conclude their campaign with six golds, two silvers and two bronzes, just marginally less than their haul of six golds, five silvers and one bronze from Delhi four years ago.
This article was published on Aug 3 in The New Paper.
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