Gao's tournament may be over

Gao's tournament may be over

The Singapore men's team face an anxious wait over the status of their No. 1 Gao Ning here at the World Team Table Tennis Championships.

The world No. 21 rolled his ankle in Singapore's 3-2 loss to Poland on Sunday and was told to rest.

There is a fear the veteran could miss the rest of the tournament.

Without Gao in the side, the team lost to Japan and Portugal yesterday.

Singapore Table Tennis Association senior high performance manager Eddy Tay confirmed that the 33-year-old did not suffer a fracture, but the team may take a more cautious stance with the player.

He said: "We will let him rest for a couple of days before assessing him again, but there is a likelihood that he may not play for the rest of this tournament in view of the upcoming Olympic qualifiers."

Tay was referring to the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in Hong Kong next month, which is the first route for Asian paddlers to qualify for the Rio Olympics in August.

Despite the two losses yesterday, younger players like Pang Xue Jie and Clarence Chew performed admirably.

In particular, Pang, 22, scored the upset of his career so far when the world ranked 334th player beat Japan's world No. 14 Koki Niwa 3-2 (11-4, 2-11, 11-8, 2-11, 11-8) in the opening singles, although the Republic eventually fell 3-1 to the team ranked No. 3 in the world.

Said Pang: "I knew that I was going to play the night before after Gao Ning's injury, and initially my aim was not to look bad playing against such a top player.

"Surprisingly, I won the first game, and then the third game, and the last one was pretty close."

In the second singles, Yang Zi pushed world No. 20 Yuya Oshima to the brink, but fell 3-2 (11-7, 12-14, 10-12, 11-8, 11-4).

Clarence Chew also stretched world No. 24 Maharu Yoshimura in the third singles, but lost 3-2 (9-11, 14-12, 11-4, 6-11, 11-9), before Niwa made amends for his earlier loss by beating Yang Zi 3-2 (8-11, 11-8, 11-7, 7-11, 11-3) to wrap up the tie.

Pang, Chew, 20, and 17-year-old Ethan Poh then took the court against 2014 European team champions Portugal last night, and were whitewashed 3-0, meaning the men are still winless in Group C after three matches.

The Singapore men will face Belarus today before ending their group-stage campaign against Ukraine tomorrow.

This article was first published on March 1, 2016.
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