The packed tournament calendar since last December's SEA Games has taken its toll on Singapore's national paddlers just as they are about to embark on their toughest competition.
Yesterday came confirmation of the bad news: Key men's player Zhan Jian has withdrawn from the squad for the Sept 19-Oct 4 Incheon Asian Games with an injured right elbow.
Other stalwarts are also nursing persistent injuries of their own.
Women's singles hope Yu Mengyu skipped yesterday's media conference to undergo treatment on her sprained waist.
Meanwhile, top players Gao Ning and Feng Tianwei have niggling pains to deal with, although they insist they can cope with the minor injuries.
Said Feng in Mandarin: "This year has been more hectic than usual. Besides the usual Tour events, we've also had to play in the World Team Championships, as well as the SEA Games, the Commonwealth Games and now the Asian Games."
"A few of us are carrying injuries which doctors say can only be completely cured by rest, but we want to push on for this final major tournament first."
However for Zhan, the reigning SEA Games men's singles champion and winner of two golds and one bronze at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in July, the Incheon Asian Games is a tournament too far.
Said the 32-year-old: "I played through the Commonwealth Games with painkillers every day, but the injury got worse when I returned to Singapore."
"The doctors at the Singapore Sports Institute tried their best to heal the injury, but it wasn't sufficient enough for me to take to the courts again."
"Certainly it's disappointing, as I would have been making my Asian Games debut. Now I can only hope that I can maintain my playing level and commitment when the Games come around again in 2019."
His place in the men's team will be taken by veteran Yang Zi, subject to approval by the Singapore National Olympic Council.
Men's team head coach Yang Chuanning admits Zhan's pullout is a blow to the men's team, as he is a vital player who is capable of snaring the second singles tie to put Singapore in a commanding 2-0 lead in team-event clashes.
However, new Singapore Table Tennis Association president Ellen Lee - who has just taken over from Lee Bee Wah - is confident that her paddlers have a chance to repeat their 2010 Asiad showing, in which they won a women's team silver in Guangzhou.
"It will be tough, but I'm impressed by the spirit among both the men's and women's teams," she said. "Despite the injuries, they remain determined to at least retain that silver medal, and that's all we can ask of them."
The Asian Games table tennis competition begins on Sept 27 and ends on Oct 4.
S'pore Asiad table tennis team
Gao Ning, Li Hu, Clarence Chew, Chen Feng, Yang Zi (subject to Singapore National Olympic Council approval).
Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu, Lin Ye, Zhou Yihan, Isabelle Li.
From Sept 27 to Oct 4
Golds at stake
Seven (men's and women's team, singles, doubles, as well as mixed doubles event)
This article was first published on Sept 13, 2014.
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