SEA Games: Feng floored

It is a winning streak that current national coach Jing Junhong started, after clinching the women's singles gold at the 1995 South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Thailand.

In nine editions of the biennial Games, spanning 20 years, the likes of Li Jiawei, Zhang Xueling, Wang Yuegu, Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu have won the event, as the Republic's world-class paddlers dominated table tennis in the region.

Yesterday, that winning run ended, when women's singles world No. 4 Feng fell 11-9, 10-12, 7-11, 9-11 to Thailand's Suthasini Sawettabut in one of the biggest upsets in the history of the SEA Games.

Suthasini was in tears after the win that rocked the Singapore Indoor Stadium and left the home fans stunned.

The 20-year-old Thai, ranked 107 in the world, topped Group C as a result and qualified for the semi-finals, and left Singapore with no woman in the final four, as only the top players from each of the four groups advanced.

Isabelle Li, silver medallist at the 2011 and 2013 Games, also exited the competition at the group stage, after finishing second to Vietnam's Nguyen Thi Nga in Group A.

The result marked the first time Singapore did not win a medal in the event since 1993, ironically the last time they hosted the SEA Games, and meant that the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) will not achieve its target of winning all seven events.


After her shock result, Feng, 28, said: "I didn't play my normal game today and made too many mistakes. I was a little surprised at how my opponent played so well today."

The 2009 and 2011 women's singles champion added that her long-standing knee injury also affected her play.

"I wasn't in a good condition to play," said Feng, who won a bronze in the 2012 Olympic women's singles event.

Jing, who admitted she was "shocked" at the result, said the pressure of performing at home, as well as Li's exit, may have affected her team captain.

She said: "Tianwei made quite a number of mistakes during the match and was poor in her service play.

"She seemed to be feeling the pressure and was very conservative.

"We have worked hard in training, but a lot of ASEAN countries have been training really hard to catch up, and they have been gunning for us and our players at this competition."

Jing admitted they didn't think their paddlers would suffer in the singles events.

"We thought the doubles were a bigger uncertainty and trained harder for those, but both our women's singles players did not play up to their standards in this competition," she said.

"We will regroup, have a team meeting before the team events start (tomorrow).

"The two players will have to do some mental adjustments to get back into their game."

This article was first published on June 5, 2015.
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