Of golds and goals

Of golds and goals
Singapore-born national paddler Isabelle Li.

SINGAPORE- Three golds at this year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games, a team led by Singapore-born paddlers in 2015, and, hopefully, a homegrown player on the podium at the 2020 Olympics.

Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) president Lee Bee Wah revealed her targets and long-term ambition to The New Paper at a media conference yesterday.

Eight national paddlers (see sidebar) will be taking part in four events - men's and women's singles and men's and women's team - at the 2013 SEA Games in Naypyidaw from Dec 11 to 22.

Despite a clean sweep in Indonesia two years ago and boasting a scrum of world-class paddlers, Lee is keen to temper expectations, especially with a younger bunch flying the flag in Myanmar.

"We are aiming for three golds, at least. It's not easy but it's not impossible," she said.

"Out of the eight paddlers, only (Yu) Mengyu, Isabelle (Li) and (Pang) Xuejie have SEA Games experience.

"Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia will provide stiff competition. I've heard that Myanmar have a new team of foreign talent (from China).

Clarence Chew, 17, saw his nomination for the last Games rejected by the Singapore National Olympic Council, but will now get his first taste of action in the biennial contest.

He said: "I'm definitely motivated after missing out the last time."

The STTA named China-born Zhan Jian and Yu Mengyu as the leaders of the men's and women's team, respectively, but Lee wants local-born paddlers to lead the team at the 2015 Games, which Singapore will host for the first time since 1993.

She said: "We hope that Xuejie, Clarence and Isabelle will lead the team when the next SEA Games is held on home soil. We hope to have as many local-born players representing Singapore as possible."

Li (above) cannot wait.

"We are thankful for such an opportunity and this kind of trust," said the 19-year-old.

"We are really looking forward to it and it will be a great experience to play at home with the nation behind us."

While Lee stressed that the STTA will always be open to top foreign talent, her long-term vision is for a local-born paddler to follow in the footsteps of naturalised Singaporeans like Feng Tianwei, Wang Yuegu and Li Jiawei and get onto the Olympics podium.

She said: "As of now, 2016 could come too early for Isabelle. She is still ranked 236th now and world rankings will affect Olympic qualification.

"My dream is to have one local-born paddler on the Olympic podium in 2020."

TABLE TENNIS TEAM FOR 2013 SEA GAMES

MEN

Zhan Jian, 31 (World no. 26) Li Hu, 25 (World no. 51) Pang Xuejie, 20 (World no. 412) Clarence Chew, 17 (World no. 365)

WOMEN

Yu Mengyu, 24 (World no. 22) Isabelle Li, 19 (World no. 235) Zhou Yihan, 19 (World no. 95) Lin Ye, 17 (World no. 96)


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