Women can improve but men need new blood

Women can improve but men need new blood
Singapore's women's table tennis doubles pair Feng Tianwei (left) and Yu Mengyu defeated Australia in the Finals at the Scotstoun Sports Complex during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.

While it is mission accomplished for Singapore's golden girls, the men's table tennis team is looking to rejuvenate.

Winning a total of 10 medals at the Commonwealth Games (gold and silver in the men's singles; gold and bronze in the men's doubles; gold in the men's team; gold, silver and bronze in the women's singles; gold in the women's doubles; and gold in the women's team), two medals less than in their triumphant campaign in the 2010 New Delhi edition, national coaches Jing Junhong and Yang Chuanning are still happy with the haul.

Women's coach Jing believes the fresh faces in the squad - Lin Ye, Isabelle Li and Zhou Yihan - had coped well with the retirement of veterans Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu.

She said: "It is not easy to win all these medals, not easy at all. There was tremendous pressure to repeat the success of 2010 but these players proved they have the mental strength to defend the crowns. They grew up during this competition.

"There is a lot of expectation on these young players and the Commonwealth Games are their first big test.

"But I am very glad they have passed with flying colours."

Although she will not be drawn into predicting if they can win Olympic medals as Li and Wang did for the country, she is optimistic that they have the makings of a good side, saying: "These girls are not at their golden age yet. The team that won in 2010 was a mature side but this team is going upwards now. Although it is still too early to tell and I cannot tell where they will end up, I see a lot of hope.

Yu Mengyu, who played in the 2010 Games, is now 24 while Isabelle Li is 19, Zhou is 20 and Lin is 18.

Men's coach Yang heaped praise on his players' performance in Glasgow but believes that new blood is needed. Top player Gao Ning, the world No. 12, is now 31.

Zhan Jian, who beat Gao 4-1 to win the men's singles gold on Saturday (11-9, 11-2, 11-7, 6-11, 11-7), is 32.

Yang Zi is 30.

Li Hu is 26 and only local-born Clarence Chew, 18, is below 20.

"This is a very difficult competition with teams like Canada, India and England putting up strong challenges but my players played to their potential," Yang said.

"Overall, I am very satisfied and we hope to keep up the good work at the Asian Games (in September).

"But we need to intensify our effort to groom young players.

"The Rio de Janeiro Olympics are two years away. So there is still time to do that."

meng@sph.com.sg

This article was published on Aug 4 in The Straits Times.

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