SEA Games: New generation of paddlers eager to make their mark

·3-min read
Team Singapore's table tennis singles players: (from left) Clarence Chew, Koen Pang, Lin Ye and Zeng Jian. (PHOTO: Chia Han Keong/Yahoo News Singapore)
Team Singapore's table tennis singles players: (from left) Clarence Chew, Koen Pang, Lin Ye and Zeng Jian. (PHOTO: Chia Han Keong/Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — When Yu Mengyu announced her retirement in March, it meant the last link to Singapore table tennis' 2010 World Team Championships-winning generation has finally stepped away from the national team.

Nonetheless, a new generation of women's national paddlers are eager to follow in their predecessors' footsteps and continue the winning tradition at the upcoming SEA Games in Hanoi.

While the likes of Lin Ye, Zeng Jian, Goi Ruixuan, Wong Xinru and Zhou Jingyi are hardly household names, they have been steadily building up their competitive nous in overseas competitions and are hopeful of making a name for themselves at the Games.

Take Lin for example. The 26-year-old is the defending champion of the women's singles event, and feels that her experience at last year's Tokyo Olympics will give her the composure needed to retain her gold - and perhaps clinch more medals in the women's doubles, women's team and mixed doubles competitions.

"It's about adjusting your temperament in order to play without feeling nervousness, and I feel that my Olympic experience has given me valuable experience in keeping my emotions in check," she said during a media conference by the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) on Wednesday (4 May).

"Hopefully, this can translate into better performance for me to help the team win at the SEA Games."

Be inspired by predecessors' feats: national coach

Yu was part of the women's national team which caused a monumental upset in defeating mighty China to win the gold medal at the 2010 World Team Championships, together with Li Jiawei, Feng Tianwei, Wang Yuegu and Sun Beibei. Li, Feng and Wang had also won three Olympic medals in the 2008 and 2012 editions.

Feng, 35, is currently the only active player among the quintet, although she is not with the STTA national team setup. She declined to take part at the SEA Games, partly because she is recovering from the effects of her COVID-19 booster shot, and also because she wanted to let the younger paddlers have their opportunities to play at the Games.

Women's team coach Jing Junhong - herself a former national paddler who played in three Olympics - feels that the current generation of paddlers should be inspired by their predecessors' feats.

"In a way, they should be able to take away many lessons from the medal-winning feats of the previous generation," said the 53-year-old in Mandarin.

"But they should also have the desire among themselves to create their own pieces of sporting history. That's what I would like to see among this new generation."

Besides the women's team, the men's team competing at the Games will comprise of Olympian Clarence Chew, defending men's singles gold medallist Koen Pang, Ethan Poh, Josh Chua and Lucas Tan.

"I think everyone is eager to return to such a big-scale sporting event after two years dealing with the pandemic," said STTA president Ellen Lee.

"While we have not set any medal targets for them, we are confident that they have it in their hearts to put in their best efforts at the SEA Games."

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