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Singapore’s women’s table tennis team lost in the finals of the team competition of the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) for the first time since 1997, ending a nine consecutive gold streak.
On Sunday (May 15), the younger generation of Singapore players lost 0-3 against Thailand’s more experienced team and took home the silver medal rather than the gold for the first time in more than two decades of SEA Games competitions.
Missing experienced players
Singapore’s women’s table tennis team has clinched the gold medal in the team event at every SEA Games since 1999, other than in 2011 and 2019, when the event was not held.
This time around, however, was different.
Veteran paddlers Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu, and Lin Ye did not compete in this year’s edition of the SEA Games.
Yu had announced her retirement from the sport in late March, and it was reported in early May that Feng and Lin would not be competing in the Games as well, the latter due to an old back injury flaring up again.
Yu came in 4th in last August’s Tokyo Olympics, while Feng is Singapore’s most decorated Olympian with one silver and two bronzes.
Lin is the SEA Games defending champion for the singles title.
It was the first time any of the five Singapore team members — Zeng Jian, Zhou Jingyi, Wong Xin Ru, Zhang Wanling, and Goi Rui Xuan — were competing in the team event, according to The Straits Times (ST).
It was also the SEA Games debut for 25-year-old Zeng, 22-year-old Zhang, and 17-year-old Zhou, who played in the finals against Thailand.
Meanwhile, the Thai team consisted of seasoned players such as Suthasini Sawettabut, who is ranked 21 in the world, and 2019 women’s doubles gold medallist Orawan Paranang, ST reported.
Singapore loses 0-3 to Thailand
In the finals, Zhou lost 0-3 against Sawettabut (7-11, 9-11, 7-11).
Zeng held her ground against Paranang, but ended up losing 2-3 after several very tight games (4-11, 11-9, 11-8, 8-11, 10-12).
Wong lost 1-3 to Jinnipa Sawettabut (6-11, 9-11, 11-8, 4-11), rounding off the finals with a silver medal for the team and bringing an end to the Singapore women’s table tennis team’s SEA Games reign.
Grooming the next generation of table tennis players
While the results marked the end of an era, Singapore head coach Jing Junhong told ST that she was not surprised due to the difference in both teams’ experience levels.
“This is a young team. In terms of skills and experience, we’re not on par with Thailand but our performance was good. Through the finals, we know that our players have to raise their level of play and experience to grow as players.
Of course we didn’t want to lose today but in the end, the opponents’ experience and quality were higher but it’s OK, we just have to work harder.”
She added that it is a process of building the team of the new generation of players up to a higher level. In the future, Jing said, the Singapore team will get even better, but the young players just need to be given some time.
In a Facebook post on Sunday (May 15) night, the Singapore Table Tennis Association said that their goal has always been to groom more table tennis talents to represent Singapore on the world stage.
“Having the next generation of players representing Singapore in the 2022 SEA Games clearly shows that STTA is on the right path in grooming more table tennis talents.
The STTA will continue to give the best support to our table tennis talents in hope that we will have more Singaporeans on the world stage.”
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Top photos via Facebook/Singapore Table Tennis Association.