Table tennis: Medal burden on Feng

Table tennis: Medal burden on Feng
UNITED: SIngapore’s paddlers with (seated, from far left) men’s coach Yang Chuanning, STTA president Ellen Lee, STTA deputy president Alex Yam and women’s coach Jing Junhong.

With a silver and two bronzes to her name, Feng Tianwei is Singapore's most bemedalled Olympian.

The paddler's feats at the 2008 Beijing Olympics (team silver) and in London four years later (team and singles bronze) have made her the face of Singapore's formidable women's table tennis team.

But, ahead of the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, later this month, the 28-year-old will also have to carry the weight of a nation on her slight shoulders. For she is the sole survivor from the team that clinched silver at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.

With a spate of injuries affecting the Republic's top paddlers, Feng is aware the odds are against the Republic repeating the feat in Incheon. But, the world No. 4 remains hopeful of doing well in both individual and team events.

"My singles seeding will be in the top four, so I'm hoping for the best," said Feng, who faltered at the singles quarter-finals at the last Asiad.

"As for our women's team, I am the only one who took part in the last Asian Games, so I hope the younger players can step up and display fighting spirit, and we will try to achieve the best result."

Since the last Asiad, the women's team have seen the retirements of stalwarts Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu. Sun Beibei, who recently gave birth to her second child, has also taken time off to start a family.

NEW BLOOD

Taking their places will be Yu Mengyu, 25, Lin Ye, 18, and Zhou Yihan and Isabelle Li, both 20.

Women's coach Jing Junhong warned about the difficulties the team will face, noting that favourites China, who have dominated table tennis at the Asian Games for the last 40 years, have an almost unchanged team from 2010.

"When we won silver the last time, our top five senior players played and even then, it was not easy," said Jing.

"Now, with the younger players and with some others carrying injuries, we'll just do our best. But we'll still strive for a medal."

If having a young and inexperienced team isn't enough of a challenge, the Republic's women's team have to worry over the fitness of their top two paddlers Feng and Yu. Feng has a minor ankle injury while Yu has been missing training due to a lower back ailment.

The injury crisis extends to the men's team, too.

Top paddler Zhan Jian, who won gold in the singles and team events at last month's Commonwealth Games in Scotland and last December's South-east Asia Games in Myanmar, is ruled out of the Asiad because of an elbow injury.

New Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) president Ellen Lee, who took over the reins of the national sports association only last Saturday, revealed that Zhan had played through pain in Glasgow.

The STTA plans to replace Zhan with Yang Zi, but the swop is still subject to the Singapore National Olympic Council's approval. Table tennis at the Incheon Games will take place from Sept 27 to Oct 4.


This article was first published on September 13, 2014.
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