New Yishun facility boosts bid for gold on home soil

Although they cannot compare in history or achievements with the other sports association here, the Table Tennis Association for the Disabled Singapore (TTADS) is aiming to bring glory to the country at the ASEAN Para Games on home soil in December.

At the previous Games in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, last year, the Republic returned with five bronzes but the association is confident of winning a first-ever gold this year.

Said its president Kevin Pang at yesterday's official launch of the association's centralised training base at Yishun Sports Centre: "There will be added pressure on our players as they'll be competing on home soil but I believe they will be ready and will do the country proud."

The para-athletes have been training at the new site since September.

They had previously trained for three hours a week at a converted squash court at the Ministry of National Development Recreation Centre in Maxwell Road.

With the dedicated facility and a larger pool of paddlers, the players now log 18 hours of practice weekly.

Noted Pang: "We have around 40 players now, which is almost double compared to last year."

The Yishun facility features four adidas Pro800 tables whose legs are tucked inside and designed specifically for wheelchair table tennis, and similar to those used in international competitions.

Each table costs $2,400 and they were sponsored by local equipment supplier Liang Seng Sports.

Jason Chee, the navy serviceman who lost both legs, left arm and three fingers on his right hand in a work accident in 2012, said: "These new tables are much easier to move around and help us prepare better for a real tournament.

"I won a bronze medal last time and want to improve on that.

"Winning a gold medal would be a dream for me."

He had teamed up with national paddler and world No. 5 Feng Tianwei in a friendly match against Paralympian Dr William Tan and Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Sam Tan and was thrilled with the learning experience.

Said the 31-year-old: "She gave me some really good pointers about areas to work on, especially my forehand."

More of such feedback and support is being planned to assist the TTADS at the Dec 3-9 Games, said Singapore Table Tennis Association president Ellen Lee.

The association is exploring the idea of sending some of its second-tier players to spar with the para-athletes in the coming months.

Said Dr Tan, captain of the para-table tennis team: "We've really intensified our training schedule and I'm encouraging all my players to put in 200 per cent in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when Singapore host the Para Games."

The 8th edition of the biennial Games will feature about 3,300 athletes and officials from 10 countries competing in 15 sports.

This article was first published on Jan 25, 2015.
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