SEA Games: Paddlers in double-gold time

Almost simultaneously, Singapore sealed 3-0 victories over Thailand in both the men's and women's table tennis team event finals at the Wunno Theikdi Indoor Stadium on Thursday afternoon.

With the two teams featuring a total of seven SEA Games first-timers, Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) president Lee Bee Wah could not help but exclaim, "Huat ah!", after their successes.

She had set a three-gold target from the four table tennis events here, and the Singapore paddlers look on course, with the men's and women's singles competition.

Said Lee: "It will not be easy because the standard in this region has improved. We have to take one match at a time... but the youngsters and first-timers did not disappoint us.


"We wanted to give them this opportunity to test them and see how they perform under pressure. We are glad that, although some of them fell behind in some matches, they eventually came back to win.

"This bodes well for our preparation towards the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games next year."

In the women's team event, 17-year-old Lin Ye was thrown into the fray to play the second singles after Isabelle Li was struck down with fever and diarrhoea.

She rose to the occasion to beat Tamalowan Khetkhuan 3-1 (11-5, 7-11, 11-7, 11-6).

She then teamed up with fellow rookie, 19-year-old Zhou Yihan, to beat Tamalowan and Anisara Muangsuk 3-1 (5-11, 11-5, 11-6, 11-8) in the doubles to seal the gold medal, after the Singapore women's No. 1 Yu Mengyu had ruthlessly despatched Nanthana Komwong 3-0 (11-2, 11-6, 11-5) in the first singles.

Said Lin Ye: "I'm very happy and quite emotional with this first SEA Games win. I was ready to be called upon and I'm thankful for the opportunities STTA has given me."

National women's coach Jing Junhong said: "It's not easy for some of our players to play in their first major tournament and be expected to do well.

"Their technique is already the best in the region, but we needed to prepare them mentally.

"We have prepared every player to be ready when required and they proved to be ready. This big-match experience will be good for their future."

In the men's team, Zhan Jian, 31, Li Hu, 25, Chen Feng, 19, and Clarence Chew, 18, made their Games debut.

World No. 30 Zhan had problems against Nikom Wongsiri, ranked a lowly 407th, in the first men's singles before emerging with a hard-fought 3-2 (11-9, 8-11, 11-4, 7-11, 11-4) win.

"There was something wrong with the ball and I couldn't get into the rhythm of things," said Zhan.

"I was nervous when it was 2-2, but I'm relieved I kept my nerve and did my part to help prove that Singapore are still table tennis powerhouses in this region."

Li Hu had no such problems against Padasak Tanviriyavechakul in the second singles, easily winning 3-0 (11-5, 11-8, 11-7), before Zhan and Chen combined to overwhelm Nikom and Chaisit Chaitat 3-0 (11-4, 11-4, 11-1).

When asked why 20-year-old Pang Xue Jie, making his fourth SEA Games appearance, and Chew did not feature in the semi-finals or final, Singapore men's coach Yang Chuanning said: "We were confident to win every match 3-0, but we also made preparations for worst-case scenarios.

"We did not field Zhe Yu (Clarence) and Xue Jie because we wanted to play safe.

"Zhe Yu and Zhan Jian will play in the singles events and I'm confident they will do very well."

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