C'wealth Games: Paddlers' mission to retain gold standard

C'wealth Games: Paddlers' mission to retain gold standard
Singapore’s top female paddler Feng Tianwei (right) checking her mobile phone at the Games Village on Tuesday. The 27-year-old former world team champion is looking forward to another good haul of table tennis medals in Glasgow.

The faces are still fresh and, for many of them, their trophy cabinets are relatively empty. But the Commonwealth Games will be a good place for Singapore's new generation of paddlers to start their collection, which is likely to swell in the coming years.

With golden girls Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu retired after landing the Republic's first Olympic medals in table tennis, it is left to Feng Tianwei to move up from being the wingman to the top gun.

And the 27-year-old is looking forward to another good harvest in Glasgow, saying: "I hope to hit top form at the Commonwealth Games and accomplish our mission, which is to retain our gold medals."

In the 2010 edition in New Delhi, Singapore steamrolled to six of the seven golds available (men's and women's singles, women's doubles, mixed doubles and men's and women's team) and finished with five more silvers and a bronze.

The team are targeting at least a similar six-gold haul this time, even though only four of the 10-strong squad - Feng, Yu Mengyu, Gao Ning and Yang Zi - played in the Delhi Games.

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.

But with the women's team placed in Pool A with Sri Lanka and Northern Ireland, Singapore are expected to breeze through as Feng, the current world No. 5, and Yu (No. 18) are the only players ranked in the world's top 20 competing in Glasgow.

The men's team, spearheaded by world No. 20 Gao, is also expected to glide past Group A opponents Ghana, Sri Lanka and the Seychelles.

Feng said: "This is a new team and, for many of them, it is their first major competition. So, there is more pressure to deliver. "Although the standard of the competition is not that high at the Commonwealth Games, you can still feel the atmosphere of a major tournament.

"This can only benefit the younger ones and will be good for their confidence."

National women's coach Jing Junhong, who identified three countries - India, Australia and England - as the Republic's main challengers, said: "Our players definitely want to go out there and win every single gold medal available.

"It is pressure and a burden for us as everybody knows Singapore is one of the stronger table tennis teams in the Commonwealth. Naturally, attention will be on us and expectations will be high. So, it is a good test for our young players."

With Feng, Li and Wang giving the country years of good service and standing on the podium at the Olympics, Jing is hoping the new crop can walk down the same path and pick up the same winning formula in Glasgow.

She said: "This is a young team and they could be representing Singapore together for the next few years.

"The SEA Games last year was a good start (for) many of them on what it takes to compete regionally and the Commonwealth Games is a bigger international stage. We are taking this in steps as, after this, we will be meeting the best from Asia in September's Asian Games."

This article was first published on July 24, 2014.
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