Koen Pang is first local-born paddler to win SEA Games men singles
Debutant wins singles gold, while Lin Ye claims women's title after Feng retires
Koen Pang yesterday became the first Singapore-born paddler to win the SEA Games men's table tennis singles title.
The 17-year-old, who was making his debut at the biennial Games, beat compatriot Clarence Chew 4-0 (11-5, 11-7, 11-7, 12-10) in the best-of-seven final at Subic Bay Exhibition & Convention Center.
Previous singles champions, including men's head coach Gao Ning, have all been naturalised, but the men's team at this edition comprised entirely of Singapore-born players.
Koen's historic gold marked a remarkable turnaround for him.
He was on the brink of elimination after trailing world No. 192 Padasak Tanviriyavechakul of Thailand 3-0 in the semi-finals earlier yesterday.
Koen, who in August became the first Singaporean to be ranked Under-18 world No. 1, responded by winning his next eight games.
The teen rallied to a 4-3 (7-11, 10-12, 7-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-3, 11-9) triumph in the semis, before whitewashing Chew in the final.
Yesterday capped a remarkable year for Koen, who is currently No.11 in the U-18 rankings.
He had secured the ranking after he and Josh Chua won the Republic's first-ever bronze medal at the ITTF World Junior Table Tennis Championships earlier this month.
Said Koen: "This definitely meets my target of bringing home one gold.
"I think I performed very well and I think he (Chew) could have done better.
"We usually play closer (matches) but I don't know, maybe nerves got to him."
Gao Ning, winner of five of the past six SEA Games singles titles, admitted that he was "surprised" by how the final panned out.
Said the 37-year-old: "This time's final was a surprise.
"My usual advice to our younger players is for them to do adequate preparation for the competition and not to overthink - just do their best in every match.
"Going into this match, Koen had his own expectations of himself. He focused on his performance, and this resulted in a positive outcome."
Meanwhile, Chew, runner-up to his coach at the last Games in Kuala Lumpur, took solace from Singapore's back-to-back 1-2s in the men's singles.
Said world No. 217 Chew, 23: "Of course, I'm a little disappointed, but I think to get gold and silver for Singapore is a great achievement."
There was another 1-2 for Singapore in the women's singles, as Lin Ye beat defending champion Feng Tianwei 4-1.
Feng, the world No. 9, retired with a right wrist injury at the start of the second set. She had won the first 11-6.
Said Feng, 33: "I haven't been feeling well for the past few days.
"I caught the flu and I had fever yesterday and was feeling uncomfortable today.
"Then, after the seven-setter (in the semis), my old wrist injury flared up and I couldn't really carry on."
World No.63 Lin Ye was added to the SEA Games team only on Dec 3, after world No. 52 Yu Mengyu had to pull out with a back injury.
Said the 23-year-old: "I was notified that I'd be taking part only about a week ago, but the daily training has helped me come in prepared.
"I hope this is just the start for me."
The table tennis team won two golds, three silvers and two bronzes in the Philippines.It was their lowest total since the 1997 Games, when they won only one event.