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S'pore knocked out of World Team Table Tennis C’ships

Singapore’s women’s and men’s teams paid the price for below-par performances as they were eliminated from the World Team Table Tennis Championships on Feb 21, falling 3-0 to Poland and Iran respectively in the play-off rounds.

The trio of Zhou Jingyi, Zeng Jian and Wong Xin Ru, ranked 10th in the world, could not get the better of the 20th-ranked Europeans. All three lost their matches at the Busan Exhibition and Convention Centre by the same 3-2 scoreline.

National women’s coach Jing Junhong rued the fine margins that cost her players. She said: “We lost but looking at the individual match scores, it was a much closer game.

“Our opponents were very aggressive today, taking many offensive shots and we on the other hand were more conservative in our approach, which in a competition like this, would hurt us.

“Moving forwards we hope that we can learn from this tournament, to put in practice and train to be more daring.”

World No. 103 Zhou pushed 52nd-ranked Natalia Bajor all the way before succumbing 9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8. It was a similarly tight affair between Zeng Jian (No. 60) and Katarzyna Wegrzyn (No. 133) but the latter eventually prevailed 11-4, 4-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-8.

Zuzanna Weilgos (No. 183) then sealed the victory, coming from two games behind to outlast Wong (No. 128) 6-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-5, 14-12 and send Poland into the last-16.

The defeat leaves Singapore’s chances of qualifying for the women’s team event at the Olympics Games in doubt. They needed to finish in the top eight of this tournament to earn an automatic spot.

The Republic has competed in the women’s team event at every Summer Games since it was introduced at Beijing 2008 and have captured two Olympic medals (silver in 2008 and bronze at London 2012) in this category.

The women’s team can still make it to Paris 2024 depending on the round of 16 results at the world championships, their world ranking in March and the number of unused quota spots.

Jing noted: “There is still a chance for us to qualify for the Olympics and we can only hope, at this stage, there are no easy opponents and everyone will be fighting for a spot.”

In the men’s competition, world No. 22 Singapore could not find a way past the 27th-ranked Iranians.

World No. 79 Koen Pang lost the first match 3-1 (6-11, 12-10, 11-6, 11-6) to world No. 240 Nima Alamian while Izaac Quek (No. 55) was outplayed 3-0 (11-6, 11-6, 11-4) by Noshad Alamiyan (No. 51).

Amir Hossein Hodaei (No. 122) sealed the victory with a 3-0 (11-6, 11-5, 11-5) win over Clarence Chew (No. 171).

Given their world ranking, Singapore’s men’s team cannot qualify for the Paris Olympics. Their last appearance at the quadrennial Games was at the 2012 edition.

Pang, who won four of his five matches during the group stage as Singapore had opened their campaign with a shock upset of world No. 8 Brazil, said: “The match against Iran was never going to be easy, but I felt that we did not play to our best today and we could have done much better.

“We are still going to work hard and try to qualify for the Olympics individually, and we’re all looking forward to the Singapore Smash in March.”