When Gao Ning fought to clinch table tennis' lone gold yesterday, red banners, red scarves and national flags were held up and waved in support of Singapore's top paddler.
So it was perhaps apt that after the world No. 15 swept past Richard Gonzales of the Philippines 11-6, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8, 11-3 to win the men's singles event, the first thing he did was to bow to acknowledge the fans, pointing to the flag sewn on his jersey.
The win - Gao's fourth singles title at the biennial Games after previous triumphs in 2007, 2009 and 2011 - also avenged team- mate Clarence Chew's defeat by the Filipino in the semi-finals.
"I ran into some problems in the third and the fourth game, but throughout the whole match, I was certain I would be able to win," said the 31-year-old, who played in front of a partisan crowd of about 2,000.
"In front of so many home supporters, no matter how hard the match was, I couldn't lose.
"I was the favourite."
Compared to Chew, who had gone down after a 4-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 4-11, 10-12 battle, the veteran Gao showcased his wealth of experience and skills.
While Chew had been too hasty to close out his semi-final - the 19-year-old was at one stage two points away from a 4-1 victory - Gao played far more patiently and with greater accuracy.
Said Gao: "I was fully prepared to go to the full seven games against Gonzales.
"The tempo of the match was a little slower than usual, but it was a final after all, so you definitely have to be more careful.
"Every point won takes you one step closer to the gold."
Despite his young charge settling for another bronze, national men's team head coach Yang Chuanning felt Chew had in fact performed better than Gao did against Gonzales, a defensive specialist.
Said Yang: "Gao Ning is technically superior to Clarence and probably only played to half of his strength.
"Clarence had such a good chance today and really should have won."
Ruing a missed chance at improving on his bronze medal from the 2013 Games, Chew said after his loss that he had been hampered by an injury to his shoulder suffered during his match on Wednesday.
He said: "I wanted to finish off the match too quickly and rushed it a bit too much.
"I'm still lacking when playing against defensive players so I have to work on that."
Gao, meanwhile, already has his eyes on the team event which begins tomorrow - and nothing less than golds for both the men's and women's events will do.
He said: "We have to be mentally prepared to fight our opponents. We can't fall and we definitely have to give our all."
This article was first published on June 05, 2015.
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