3rd Gold Medal For Singapore Table-Tennis

Unleashing a guttural roar with each winning point, Yang Zi glared at his opponents from across the competition table, as if daring the Thai pair of Padasak Tanaviriyavechakul and Suthasini Sawetthabut to beat him and his partner Yu Mengyu to the SEA Games mixed doubles gold.

The game of intimidation appeared to work for the Singaporean paddlers today (June 3), as the Thais’ earlier bravado – they had upset top seeded Singaporeans Li Hu and Zhou Yihan 4-3 in the semi-finals – deserted them in the final, leaving Yang and Yu to claim victory in straight sets (4-0) and win the Republic’s third gold medal at the SEA Games.

Yu and women’s doubles partner Feng Tianwei had lost the gold to teammates Lin Ye and Zhou Yihan yesterday, and the 25-year-old was delighted to pick up her first title here.

“Today my partner played very well and his spirit inspired me,” she said. “I didn’t think before this that it would be this relaxed. My teammates lost to them so Yang Zi and I made sure we did sufficient preparation for this.”

While local fans had expected an all-Singaporean final in the mixed doubles, they were left disappointed today as top seeds Li and Zhou – who won the men’s and women’s doubles gold medal respectively yesterday – were eliminated in the semis. Despite charging ahead to a 3-1 lead, the Singaporeans found the Thais’ fiery attacking game too hot to handle, losing the match 4-3 to Tanviriyavechakul and Sawettabut.

A five-time gold medallist in the mixed doubles, Yang has not lost his grip on his crown since the 2005 SEA Games, and he was not about to let the Thais usurp his throne. Fired up from the get-go, Yang’s deadly smashes proved too much for Tanviriyavechakul and Sawettabut to handle, as the Singapore pair first claimed the lead 1-0, before making it 2-0. As the score went to 3-0, it was clear that the Thais were in trouble. Yang and Yu then powered past their opponents to claim victory in the fourth game 11-6.

Yang insisted that there was no secret to his success, as he added: “There’s no secret, just hard training. We played them at the recent world champs…it was very close but we won. This time we prepared very well and played well. Semi-finalists Vietnam and Thailand are the strongest opponent in South-east Asia and we prepared very well by watching videos everyday.”

While it was mission accomplished for Team Singapore’s 10-member table tennis team with a third gold in the bag, there was frustration and disappointment for local-born player Isabelle Li.

The 20-year-old, who won two silver medals in the women’s singles at the 2011 and 2013 SEA Games, suffered a 3-2 loss to Vietnam’s Nguyen Thi Nga in the women’s singles group stage. Only the top ranked player in each of the four groups will advance to the semi-finals, and the loss could see defending silver medallist Li eliminated from the singles. Li will only advance to the top four if she beats Laos’ Seangdavieng Douangpanya in her final group match tomorrow, and Nguyen loses to Myanmar’s Khin Kaung San.

Li was close to tears after today’s match, as she said: “I think my chances of getting into the main draw has ended here. I wasn’t feeling physically good today and made a lot of mistakes. I played her at the SEA Championships last November (Li won 3-0) and she was a lot fiercer today. I wasn’t able to bring my form on court today and that gave her confidence.”

Li’s potential exit will leave world No 4 Feng Tianwei with the responsibility of winning the singles gold for Singapore. With Team Singapore’s 749-strong contingent aiming to win more than 50 gold medals in the first home Games since 1993, expectations are high for the paddlers to win all seven medals on offer at the indoor stadium.

“Getting the third gold is not less of a burden, but more of a burden,” said Singapore Table Tennis Association president Ellen Lee. “I’m very disappointed (with Li’s loss) and there is a lot of expectation heaped on Isabelle. But it is a growing up process, and the good thing is that she is still young and this is a good experience for the younger players.”


Source: www.todayonline.com

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