Joy and relief in Singapore camp as teams claim golds

Joy and relief in Singapore camp as teams claim golds
Singapore's Feng Tianwei celebrates after winning a point at the Women's Team table tennis finals of the 28th SEA Games played at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on 8 June 2015.

Her nickname "Le Le" translates into happiness, but table tennis player Feng Tianwei had cut a downcast figure at the SEA Games for the past few days.

The three-time Olympic medallist, shocked early on in the singles event, struggled to find form and confidence.

The world No. 4's joyful demeanour finally returned yesterday, after the women's team laboured to a 3-2 win over Thailand to take the title, giving Feng her only gold of these Games.

The men's team also beat Vietnam 3-1 in a final that ended close to midnight, making it a total of six golds from seven events for the table tennis players.

Perhaps in scheduling the men's team final to take place about 11/2 hours after the start of the women's final, tournament organisers thought a match-up between Thailand and Singapore, a side that included Feng and No. 13 Yu Mengyu, would be straightforward.

But the match, watched by President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, lasted more than three hours.

Singapore's paddlers had to claw their way out of trouble, coming back from 1-2 down in the best-of-five tie. Yu Mengyu, playing the first singles, was beaten 7-11, 11-8, 10-12, 9-11 by Nanthana Komwong.

Feng twice levelled the score for Singapore, first a 13-11, 12-10, 7-11, 11-6 win over Tamolwan Khetkhuan and then a comprehensive 12-10, 11-8, 11-1 victory over Komwong in the fourth singles.

Isabelle Li stretched Orawan Paranang to a decider, but lost 11-7, 9-11, 5-11, 11-8, 7-11.

Yu, buoyed by the rapturous cheers of more than 4,000 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, anchored the team to gold with a 10-12, 11-2, 15-13, 11-5 win over Khetkhuan.

"The loss in the singles was a big blow to me," Feng, who partnered Yu to a silver in the women's doubles, said yesterday.

"What happened in the singles cast a dark cloud over the team. We were all quite low in spirits.

"Win or lose, every match is a precious experience for all of us. To be able to make a comeback and win today, it's a complicated feeling."

While national women's coach Jing Junhong had expected added pressure on her charges at home, the former national paddler said the Games has been much tougher than what she had imagined.

Still, she lauded team captain Feng for bouncing back after her singles disappointment.

"Every player will lose at some point, but the difference between an average and a great athlete is how fast she can recover from a setback," she told The Straits Times. "In that, Tianwei has bounced back really well to lead the team to victory."

Gao Ning and Co had a smoother ride in their final. While they also began by dropping the first tie - Li Hu was beaten 7-11, 4-11, 11-6, 10-12 by Tran Tuan Quynh - Gao and Clarence Chew won their matches.

Gao beat Nguyen Anh Tu 11-9, 11-4, 11-8 and Tuan Quynh 11-5, 11-6, 6-11, 11-9. Chew trounced Dinh Quang Linh 11-7, 11-4, 11-7.


This article was first published on June 9, 2015.
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