Paddlers set 6-gold Glasgow target despite fresh faces

Paddlers set 6-gold Glasgow target despite fresh faces
Making their Commonwealth Games debut are (from left) Clarence Chew, Zhan Jian, Zhou Yihan, Lin Ye, Li Hu and Isabelle Li. The other four players – Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu, Gao Ning and Yang Zi – featured in India four years ago, when Singapore won six of the seven table tennis golds, missing out only in the men’s doubles.

Six of the 10-member table tennis contingent travelling to Glasgow, Scotland, this month will be making their Commonwealth Games debut but Singapore Table Tennis Association president Lee Bee Wah is not cutting her players any slack.

After winning six of the seven gold medals on offer at the 2010 edition, the squad are expected to equal the previous team’s achievement – at least.

Said Ms Lee, who is an MP for Nee Soon GRC: “For many of our players, this will be the first time they are taking part in the Commonwealth Games.

“However, I am optimistic about Singapore’s chances of repeating our success.”

From the squad of 10 (five men and five women), only four – Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu, Gao Ning and Yang Zi – played in the 2010 New Delhi edition, where Singapore missed out on only the men’s doubles title.

Lin Ye, 18, Zhou Yihan, 20, Isabelle Li, 19, Clarence Chew, 18, Zhan Jian, 32, and Li Hu, 26, will all make their debuts at the quadrennial meet.

World No. 5 Feng and world No. 12 Gao will captain the women’s and men’s teams respectively.

But Ms Lee remains confident, citing the teams’ renewed unity, fighting spirit and performance at April’s World Team Table Tennis Championships in Japan as reasons for her optimism.

In Tokyo, the women’s team finished joint-third with Hong Kong – despite being seeded fifth and the absence of veterans Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu, who both retired in 2012.

The men’s team also exceeded expectations, reaching the quarter-finals despite being seeded 15th.

Furthermore, local-born paddler Clarence, currently ranked world No. 230 but 259th before the competition, beat Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting (then world No. 37) and Sweden’s Par Gerell (then No. 35).

While Lin and Zhou did not take part in Japan, they finished first and second respectively in the Under-21 singles at the US$30,000 (S$37,000) Philippines Open in May.

Women’s coach Jing Junhong said she has been simulating pressure-cooker situations during training to whip the younger players into shape.

The team will head to Linz, Austria, tomorrow for a two-week training camp. The Commonwealth Games run from July 23 to Aug 3.

This article was first published on JULY 4, 2014.
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