Two years ago in London, Feng Tianwei faced a 19-year-old Japanese who stood in her way to glory - and beat her in straight games to clinch an Olympic bronze medal and become Singapore's first individual Olympic winner in 52 years.
Yesterday in Incheon, she faced Kasumi Ishikawa again in a major Games - only this time, the Japanese was the star in ascension. This time, it was a battle that stretched five games, and it was world No. 4 Feng who lost steam, falling to world No. 9 Ishikawa 8-11, 11-13, 11-7, 11-9, 5-11 in the second match of the Singapore vs Japan women's team semi-final clash.
"Both of us are aggressive offensive players but she was coming in confident as Japan had won the first match and so she was extra aggressive," said the 28-year-old Feng.
"I was also rushing my strokes a little. That's why I lost."
That defeat was the key in Japan's eventual 3-2 win, as it put Singapore in a 0-2 hole which, although they tried valiantly, proved too much for the injury-hit squad to overcome.
While the Republic's women paddlers will earn a bronze medal as there are no third-placed play-offs in team events, they failed to repeat their silver showing in the same event at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.
Then, the team still had the services of veterans Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu, and beat North Korea in the last four to advance to the final, where they lost to China. This time around, they faced the same Japanese side who beat them 3-0 in the Olympic team semi-finals in 2012, a loss which similarly denied them the chance to repeat their 2008 Olympic silver-medal showing.
"We are disappointed with the result although I was pleased with how our young paddlers responded when asked to take over big responsibilities," said Singapore national women's team head coach Jing Junhong. Perhaps they might have won had Yu Mengyu been able to play.
The 25-year-old world No. 10 would have been slated to play in either of the first two ties, and could have been a handful for Japanese veteran, world No. 14 Ai Fukuhara.
However, she failed to recover fully from a persistent waist injury and could only sit glumly on the sidelines as 18-year-old world No. 33 Lin Ye was beaten in straight games by Fukuhara, 8-11, 7-11, 7-11.
Third-singles player Zhou Yihan, 20, then sprang a small surprise by defeating another Japanese veteran, Sayaka Hirano 11-13, 11-8, 3-11, 11-8, 11-3, and Feng followed it up by beating Fukuhara 11-6, 11-2, 7-11, 11-8 to level things up at 2-2. But Ishikawa proved too much for Lin, underlining her status as the vital cog in the Japan team by winning 11-2, 11-7, 7-11, 11-4 to book today's final clash against China. China had beaten North Korea 3-0 in yesterday's other semi-final.
Said Jing: "We have had a gruelling year, with the world team championships, the Commonwealth Games and then this Asian Games. I'm glad the youngsters still had the fight in them."
With Yu unable to recover well enough to play yesterday, she also sat out the women's doubles round of 32 tie, as her regular partner Feng had to team up with Isabelle Li in a 6-11, 5-11, 8-11 loss to North Korea's Ri Myong Sun and Kim Song I.
She will hope to recover in time when the women's singles competition begins on Thursday.
This article was first published on September 30, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.