Suthasini spoils Singapore's party - again
Singapore win gold in men's and women's doubles but fall to Thailand in mixed doubles final
Singapore's national paddlers must be sick of the sight of Thai counterpart Suthasini Sawettabut.
The 23-year-old once again proved to be the scourge of Singapore table tennis at the SEA Games as she teamed up with Padasak Tanviriyavechakul to beat Pang Xue Jie and Yu Mengyu 3-1 (7-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-8) to win the mixed doubles gold yesterday afternoon.
This was a reversal of the final between the same pairs at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore.
The Thais had earlier ousted another Singapore pair Clarence Chew and Zhou Yihan 3-2 (3-11, 11-6, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9) in the semi-finals at MiTEC Hall 7 in Kuala Lumpur.
At the last SEA Games, Suthasini prevented hosts Singapore from sweeping all seven table tennis golds when she beat then world No. 4 Feng Tianwei in the women's singles semi-finals before defeating Malaysia's Ng Sock Khim in the final.
It was deja vu for the Republic again yesterday when Suthasini and Padasak capitalised on Yu's shoulder and waist discomfort to inflict a rare defeat on Singapore who have won the mixed doubles event at every SEA Games since 1999, except for 2013 when it was not in the programme.
Women's world No. 57 Suthasini, who hails from a small province called Ranong in southern Thailand, said: "It's a dream. Singapore have dominated table tennis at the SEA Games for so long, but we have been working hard to close the gap."
Yu refused to blame the defeat on her injuries, and said: "We played to our usual level, it was just that the opponents played more aggressively today."
Yu and Pang did get their hands on a gold medal later at night, albeit with different partners as Singapore secured a one-two finish in the men's and women's doubles events.
We played to our usual level, it was just that the opponents played more aggressively today. Yu Mengyu
Yu partnered Feng to edge Lin Ye and Zhou 3-2 (11-8, 11-9, 11-13, 9-11, 11-6) to wrest back the gold from the same opponents who beat them in 2015.
However, Singapore's top two female paddlers not only had to withstand a fierce comeback from the younger guns, they also had to survive a scare when Feng fell in the middle of the third game and hit the back of her head against the floor while they were 6-4 up.
There was a break of close to 10 minutes as medical staff attended to Feng and, after being ascertained fit to play, she took some time to regain her rhythm, but came good in the decider.
"I fell quite heavily and felt a little concussed and scared. My teammates were very concerned and came to my aid. After a short rest, I felt better to continue and I hope it will not affect my upcoming events," said Feng.
"But I'm happy to win a gold medal for Singapore because we lost to the same teammates at the last SEA Games, so we did well to improve and win this time."
In the men's doubles, experience also won the day as Gao Ning and Pang defeated compatriots Clarence Chew and Ethan Poh 3-1 (11-4, 11-9, 7-11, 11-6) in the final.
Making a comeback after hanging up his bat three years ago, Pang, who won the same event with Ma Liang in Indonesia six years ago, broke down in tears before media interviews.
Regaining his composure, the 24-year-old said: "I felt sad and terrible after losing the earlier final. I felt the pressure, especially as I faced Padasak again in the men's doubles semi-finals, and it was only after winning that the pressure lifted.
"The pressure was so great because of the target I set for myself, which is to win both the doubles gold, and I lost the first.
"This was also why I was so emotional after I won.
"One year ago, I was on the verge of giving up on competitive table tennis because I didn't think I could come back, but I'm happy now that I persevered."