Singapore paddlers launch seven-gold campaign
Singapore table tennis eyes double delight to start gold campaign
After months of preparations, Singapore's paddlers, charged with delivering the first gold medals, and a clean sweep in all seven events by the end of the 2015 South-east Asia (SEA) Games, are raring to go as the table tennis competition gets underway today at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
"We are well-prepared. The anticipation can take its toll on the mind and we can't wait to start," said national men's coach Yang Chuanning after yesterday morning's training session.
Singapore's table tennis squad last swept seven golds at a Games in Korat in 2007. They were denied by Vietnam in the men's doubles in Vientiane 2009.
Dinh Quang Linh, part of the winning pair six years ago, will team up with Duong Van Nam this year.
Some felt Cambodia would provide a threat, after naturalising South Korean paddlers Ly Song Hong and Su Kim Sour, who helped their adopted country win two golds at the South-east Asian Table Tennis Championships last year.
But Cambodia team manager Ngoy Bunthong confirmed with The New Paper that they will feature an all-local team here.
There will be two gold medals on offer tomorrow, with the women's doubles final preceding the men's event.
Singapore coach Yang agreed that winning the men's doubles would immediately "boost morale and loosen the pressure knots", but the 56-year-old was confident of his charges.
He added: "We prepared in anticipation that they (Cambodia's naturalised players) will be here. We were confident of beating them. Whether they come or not, it doesn't really affect us.
"Now that they will not play, our main contenders are Vietnam and Thailand.
"But we have Gao Ning and Li Hu, who are a world-class pair and medalled recently at the Asian Table Tennis Championships. If we play to 70 or 80 per cent of our abilities, we will have no problems."
The duo are through to the quarter-finals after receiving a bye as top seeds, while Chen Feng and Clarence Chew will take on Indonesia's Ficky Supit Santoso and Gilang Ramadhan in the Round of 16 today.
Singapore's women's doubles pair of Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu are overwhelming favourites to win the first gold of the Games tomorrow.
"I'm not worried about the technical aspects of our players because we are of a world-class standard," said national women's table tennis coach Jing Junhong.
"We just have to be careful not to be overly anxious or tense. We will try our best to simulate every scenario, including those where we find ourselves one game down.
"Sometimes it is not possible to win every match beautifully or by beating our opponents to zero, for example. The key is to simply to get the win.
"We are treating every event as a must-win, but we cannot take victory for granted."
Jing, who won 11 SEA Games gold medals, started her Singapore playing career in 1995 and missed the last time the Republic hosted the biennial event in 1993.
Like her players, this is her first SEA Games on home soil.
Said the 46-year-old: "There is a certain level of pressure playing at home because our fans expect us to win.
"While the SEA Games may not be of the same level as the Olympics or World Championships, it is still a major tournament.
"We are definitely not taking this lightly."
WHAT’S ON TODAY
MEN’S DOUBLES ROUND OF 16
- Chen Feng/Clarence Chew v Ficky Supit Santoso/Gilang Ramadhan (INA)
- Gao Ning/Li Hu receive a bye as top seeds and will meet Gilang Maulana/ Akhmad Dalang Haruri (INA) or Nikom Wongsiri/Chaisit Chaitat (THA) in the quarterfinals
WOMEN’S DOUBLES ROUND OF 16
- Feng Tianwei/Yu Mengyu receive a bye as top seeds and will meet Mai Hoang My Trang/ Phan Hoang Tuong Giang (VIE) or Orawan Paranang/Tamolwan Khetkhuan (THA) in the quarter-finals
- Lin ye/zhou yihan receive a bye as second seeds and will meet ng Sock Khim/Angeline Tang (MAS) or San Khin Kaung/Pyone Aye Thida (MYA) in the quarterfinals
MIXED DOUBLES ROUND OF 16
- Zhou Yihan/Li Hu v Lat Thet Ko Ko/San Khin Kaung (MYA) at 7pm
- Yu Mengyu/Yang Zi V Pyone Aye Thida/Tun Myo Min (MYA)
MEN’S SINGLES ROUND ROBIN
- Gao Ning V Lim Sok Long (CAM)
- All matches at the Singapore indoor Stadium