XX COMMONWEALTH GAMES
July 23-Aug 3
Men's team win gold with 3-1 result despite injury and equipment flaws
SEEN as the poorer counterparts to the all-conquering women's squad who won every Commonwealth Games table tennis team gold since 2002, the Singapore men's team are starting to catch up after a 3-1 win over a determined England in the final yesterday.
With that victory, coach Yang Chuanning's men retained the gold medal they won in the 2010 edition in New Delhi, and handed Singapore its third gold at the Glasgow Games.
And it was a triumph achieved with players struggling with pain or faulty equipment.
Zhan Jian had to cope with the pain in his right thigh while Gao Ning was unable to play at his maximum effectiveness as the glue on his bat was not adhesive enough to give him sufficient grip.
Yang revealed: "I am very delighted with this win as my players showed great mental strength.
"I had expected a 3-1 scoreline but I had thought it would be the English singles players who would cause us problems.
"Little did I know that we would lose the doubles game.
"But, in the end, it all went well for us and I think Gao, especially, had an incredible game even though he was affected by the glue on his bat."
In a gripping first game, Zhan was stunned in the first set by Paul Drinkhall before regaining his composure to win 5-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-7, 11-2.
And in a show of mental strength, Gao silenced the partisan crowd, who were clapping and stamping their feet in support of his 21-year-old opponent Liam Pitchford, when he staged an improbable comeback after going down 2-8 in the second set.
Point by point, he clawed back, surviving rallies and sending Pitchford to look for a towel to wipe his sweaty palms, until that deficit evaporated.
In the end, the 31-year-old won 11-9, 13-11, 11-3.
At the end of his game, Pitchford sat on a chair expressionless, crushed by the demoralising blow inflicted by the Singaporean.
But the Republic suffered a blow in the doubles as Li Hu and Gao were beaten 1-3 by the teamwork of Andrew Baggaley and Drinkhall 11-8, 6-11, 8-11, 3-11.
It was left to Zhan, the men's singles winner at the 2010 New Delhi Games and last year's Myanmar SEA Games, to step up to the plate and the 32-year-old swiftly despatched Baggaley 11-4, 11-8, 11-9.
Zhan said: "I struggled with my injury in the first game against Drinkhall and it showed as I could only win 3-2.
"But as I played on, I managed the pain and coped with it.
"In the end, I felt my leg was stable enough for me to remove the bandage to play on." firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was first published on July 29, 2014.
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