Asian Games: Feng settles for bronze

Asian Games: Feng settles for bronze
Singapore's Feng Tian We in action against China's Zhu Yuling (not pictured) during their Women's Singles Semi Final match.

The final score was a whitewash, a 4-0 loss to an opponent nine years her junior. Yet, for paddler Feng Tianwei, this was a victory in defeat.

The 28-year-old Singaporean (above) succumbed to China's Zhu Yuling in the semi-finals of the Asian Games women's table tennis singles at the Suwon Gymnasium in Incheon yesterday.

Feng was not only up against one of the rising stars in the sport, but she had also never beaten Zhu in three previous attempts.

And then there was her injured knee.

The world No. 4, who was spotted rubbing her left knee during the match, said: "In the singles competition, I've had to face several challenges and difficulties to get this medal - I'm quite satisfied.

"My injury is quite serious and my stance was a bit weak... but, like most China players, Zhu's mental strength is stronger than most."

Despite being not fully fit, Feng put up a good fight against the tournament's No. 3 seed.

She lost the first game 13-11, but not before clawing her way back from 9-5 down.

She saved three set-points in the second, only to lose 13-11 by a hair's breadth, her final ball clipping the top of the net and going long.

After saving another trio of set-points in the third, Feng succumbed 14-12.

And her resistance was over by the end of the fourth game, falling 11-8, to settle for a bronze medal, the Republic's table tennis contingent's third bronze at the Asiad.

Her brave challenge was not missed by anyone in the stands, not her coach Jing Junhong, nor the locals who adopted Feng and showed their support by ooh-ing and aah-ing at her.

"She showed good competitive spirit and she really wanted to win," said Jing.

"It's a real big pity. Tianwei was very close in the first three games, where there was only a two-point difference, but Zhu made fewer mistakes at crucial times. That's where China are strong."

But, even in the face of an opponent who held a clear psychological advantage, there were no wild celebrations from Feng after points were won.

There were no yelps, no wild fist-pumps, no vigorous nodding of her head.

Indeed, even when she flipped her bat onto the table after losing the second set, she came out in the third, serene, like that show of disgust never happened.

But there was certainly pressure.

With world No. 10 Yu Mengyu ruled out of the Asiad with a back injury, the onus to carry the team fell on Feng.

And she took it all in her stride.

"I'm more satisfied this time because of (having to deal with) my injury and also because Mengyu is out injured," said Feng. "I've had to lead the two youngsters (Lin Ye and Zhou Yihan) and there was more pressure."

Her next fight is against time.

The Women's World Cup starts on Oct 19, and Feng faces a race to get fit.

Jing said: "Mengyu will definitely not go to the World Cup - I wouldn't let her even if she wanted to.

"For Tianwei, time is tight, and we will have to consider (how quickly she can recover from) her injury before we decide."

This article was first published on Oct 5, 2014.
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