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table tennis team singapore myanmar 2013
File photo credit: SportSG

By Christabel Yang

At the recently concluded Southeast Asian (SEA) Games 2013 that took place in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, Team Singapore's table tennis players clinched four gold medals out of the initially targeted three, emerging as champions in all the categories that we signed up for. An impressive feat indeed.

While table tennis has always been a sport that galvanised the local sports community, SEA Games 2013 was seen as a watershed year as Singaporeans found new heros to root for.

The rising Table Tennis stars of Singapore

Singapore entered the regional Games with new blood in our teams. Our top seasoned players such as world No.4 Feng Tianwei, Gao Ning and Yang Zi were replaced by younger players such as Clarence Chew, Isabelle Li, Pang Xue Jie and Lin Ye. 

Senior players like Zhan Jian and Yu Mengyu were placed in the team to spearhead the efforts for Singapore to retain her medals. This was all part of a comprehensive plan to nurture the younger generation in preparation for future games. The Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) had hoped to provide more opportunities for our youth to discover their talents and let them shine.

Singapore's results at SEA Games 2013

In the men’s and women’s singles, Zhan Jian and Yu Mengyu emerged as defending champions of the title respectively, earning Singapore two of her gold medals. Similarly, our athletes triumphed over Thailand in the men’s and women’s team categories to come in first. Clarence Chew and Isabelle Li were the two young, home grown talents that had represented Singapore in the singles category. Clarence obtained bronze while Isabelle secured silver. Both our younger players had displayed true grit and fighting spirit.

It was Clarence’s first time representing us at the SEA Games and his never-say-die attitude made Singapore proud. In Clarence’s semi-finals, he had fought to level the series 2-2 despite dropping 2 games at the start. STTA head Lee Bee Wah  said, “He was down by points many times but fought to come back.”

However, Clarence was eventually defeated 4-2 by Le Tien Dat of Vietnam. But he was not defeated in spirit as he acknowledged his shortcomings and revealed that he was generally satisfied with his performance. Zhan Jian would later beat Le Tien Dat 4-0 to bring home the gold for Singapore.

For former child prodigy Isabelle, representing Singapore in the singles category was the first in her transition of ranks from junior to senior. She had admitted it was not easy, having to move out of her comfort zone and meet stronger, faster and better players of higher calibre. 

Despite coming in second in the women’s singles to fellow Singaporean Yu Mengyu, Isabelle said that she would focus on the learning experience instead of the outcome. She said she would train harder to improve her skills in preparation for the SEA Games in 2015.

The results of our table tennis team in the SEA games goes to show our new generation of home grown talents are definitely rising stars to look out for.

In spite of the sweeping victory, complacency is not part of the plan for STTA and the players are still training hard for future competitions. The STTA’s wish is for local talents Clarence and Isabelle to spearhead the wins at the SEA Games next year.

At the SEA Games 2013, the Singapore table tennis team rose above all, attaining all four championship titles. Judging from their bag of four golds, one silver and one bronze, we can surely expect Singapore to come back even stronger in the next SEA Games hosted in our country.

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