Wednesday 8 August 2012

Singapore women paddlers win nation's second medal: London 2012 Olympics

By Shereen Tan/Hetty Musfirah/Patwant Singh/Dylan Loh, Channel NewsAsia, 7 Aug 2012

Singapore's women paddlers on Tuesday defeated South Korea in the team bronze medal match to clinch the Republic's second medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

The team of Li Jiawei, Wang Yuegu and Feng Tianwei defeated South Korea's Kim Kyung-ah, Seok Ha-jung and Dang Ye-seo 3-0.

The opening match was a showdown between Singapore's top paddler Feng and world number 5 Kim.

Feng started strongly taking the first two games 11-9, 11-8 in just under 20 minutes.

But Feng's impatience to put away the first match gave Kim a lifeline as she fought back to win the third game 11-4.

Feng was stretched to four match points before wrapping the final game 13-11 to win 3-1.

In the second match, Singapore veteran Li was up against South Korea's Seok.

Li drew first blood, storming to a 2-0 lead in 14 minutes.

She dropped the third game before finally overcoming Seok 11-5, 11-8, 6-11, 11-8 to win the second match 3-1.

In the crucial third match, Singapore's Li and Wang raced to a 2-0 lead against South Korean pair Seok and Dang in the doubles.

But Singapore faltered in the third game again, this time 6-11 to the Koreans.

Li and Wang made no mistake in the final game, wrapping up the match 11-9, 11-6, 6-11, 11-5 to win the bronze medal.

President of the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) Lee Bee Wah said: "After the previous loss (to Japan in the semi-finals), everyone was very disappointed. But then we talked to the players and forgot about that match.

"Because in any tournament, there will be a winner and a loser. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose but what is more important is to prepare the next one, and in fact our team prepared very well."

"I really want to thank all those who supported us," she added.

Soon Min Sin, honorary secretary of the STTA, said: "The Singapore team that we see today is a completely different team from the one that played yesterday when we lost to Japan.

"We're very happy that they are able to transform themselves in less than 24 hours, and we're very happy that the home team is able to get back to its top form."

Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing said the second bronze medal win in table tennis is a testimony to the effort of the entire Team Singapore.

"We would not have been able to achieve this without the support of all the coaches, the backroom staff and everybody who has played a part. And I must say a big thank you to all the boisterous Singapore supporters in the arena," Mr Chan said.

The first table tennis bronze medal was won by Feng in the women's singles event on August 1, the first individual Olympic medal for Singapore since the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Mr Chan, who is in London and caught all the action along with supporters, said the team performed beyond expectations.

"It is a great win. It was a tough match, we knew before the game that it was not going to be easy and our players were also feeling the stress and strains of the long competition," he said.

"So we are very happy the girls have performed beyond expectations by overcoming their injuries."

"We really want to thank Team Singapore and the Singapore table tennis team for uniting the nation and inspiring us on, and for giving us such a wonderful 47th birthday present for Singapore and Singaporeans," Mr Chan added.

Over in Singapore, loud cheers rang out from a coffeeshop in Yishun when fans saw the paddlers net the bronze.

The screening was organised by the Singapore Table Tennis Association to drum up support for the Singapore team.

Li Jiawei's starring role for Singapore
By Tan Yo-Hinn, TODAY, 8 Aug 2012

LONDON: Flashing a thumbs-up sign and a hint of a smile, Li Jiawei on Tuesday muttered: "This is the perfect birthday present."

Indeed, if this turns out to be her Olympics swansong, then she certainly chose a good time.

With Singapore's national women's table tennis team needing a lift following Sunday's hugely disappointing semi-final defeat to Japan, Li emerged from her bit-part role to spearhead Singapore to victory over South Korea to secure the women's team bronze medal at the London Olympics and give her country and herself an early birthday present - she turns 31 on National Day.

The four-time Olympian had defeated Seok Ha Jung 3-1 in the second singles to give Singapore a 2-0 lead, after world No 8 Feng Tianwei had beaten Kim Kyung Ah 3-1 in the first singles.

With hardly a moment's rest, Li then returned to partner Wang Yuegu to beat Seok and Dang Ye Seo 3-1 in the doubles' match to secure the bronze.

It was Singapore's second medal at the London Games, after Feng's women's singles bronze, and it puts the Republic 60th in the medal standings for now, above the likes of Argentina, Turkey and Puerto Rico at press time.

Li, who equalled swimmer Joscelin Yeo's record of four Olympic appearances, said this has been her most challenging Olympiad as she is feeling the mental and physical toll.

"It's been a really significant and meaningful Olympics for me," said the four-time Sportswoman of the Year, who made her debut at the 2000 Sydney Games.

"Last week, I had difficulty walking properly and, last Wednesday, the team doctor took a decision and injected me with painkillers to draw out the excess fluid (from my knee)," she said.

"That's why after resting the next day, I went straight into competition on the 3rd (August). Of course, there was discomfort in my knee but at least it was all worth it."

"I managed to be very focused today and I would say this is one my best performances."

The world No 15's starring role in Singapore's win - a consolation for Sunday's disappointing 3-0 semi-final loss to second-seeds Japan - was clear for the 20-odd Singapore fans who met the team behind the spectator stands after the match, as they broke into an impromptu rendition of Happy Birthday.

Indeed, as Li, shrewdly switched to the second singles match by Singapore's women's team Head Coach Zhou Shusen and Assistant Coach Jing Junhong, dug deep into her vast pool of experience from her 16-year professional career to sweep aside Seok as she rolled back the years in front of some 3,000 spectators at London's ExCel Arena.

"Experience does count and, being in my fourth Olympics, I was able to call upon that knowledge," said Li.

Whether she will compete at the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 for a record fifth outing remains to be seen and Li herself was also non-committal.

"I haven't given serious thought about retirement, but I will take a break and let my knee recover because it is an old injury that I have been carrying for a very long time," she said.

"About whether I will play at the 2016 Olympics, we'll have to see how the situation is closer to the date."

Focus on athletes' deeds, not origins: minister
By May Chen, The Straits Times, 8 Aug 2012

LONDON - Rather than focus on where Singapore's foreign-born athletes are originally from, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing on Monday urged Singaporeans to look at their contributions instead.

"Let's not just look at where people come from," he said.

"It's not just where people come from we should be concerned with. It's also what they've done for the country."

Mr Chan was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a Team Singapore dinner held to celebrate the 23 athletes representing Singapore at the London Olympics. It was held at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel.

Paddler Feng Tianwei won a bronze medal in the women's singles event last Wednesday, Singapore's first Olympic medal in an individual event in 52 years.

But while her historic achievement drew congratulations, it was also met with cynicism. Pockets of Singaporeans felt the victory was lost on them because Feng is originally from China, and thus not a "true-blue" Singaporean.

But Mr Chan felt the contributions athletes like Feng make to Singapore sport is something that cannot be measured simply in medals.

"For those who've joined us, we hope they can inspire a new generation of young athletes and that to us is the most important thing," he said.

It is something that he feels has already materialised, citing up-and-coming paddlers such as Youth Olympic Games silver medallist Isabelle Li as an example.

"Our aim is to have them catalyse the development of sports structure (in Singapore)," he added.

Mr Chan also noted that Singapore is not going to just rely on foreign-born athletes for glory.

He said: "It depends on what the needs of the various sports are. At the end of the day, we definitely want to be able to have our system groom a core of Singaporean talent in the respective sports."

Banner moment for trio
Bronze winners Feng, Wang and Li are touched by rousing welcome
By Fabius Chen, The Straits Times, 11 Aug 2012

"FENG Tianwei: overwhelming, powerful, successful...", the large red banner screamed.

The adjectives went on and on. But it was just a slice of the adoration Singaporeans showered on her and her bronze medal-winning team-mates as the table tennis stars returned from London last evening.

A crowd of nearly 800, which included Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing, were at Changi Airport Terminal 3 to give Feng, Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu a rousing welcome after their Olympic exploits.

"I'm very touched to see so many supporters here," four-time Olympian Li gushed.

She played a pivotal role in beating South Korea to the team bronze on Tuesday, first defeating Seok Ha Jung before pairing with Wang to top Seok and Dang Ye Seo and seal a 3-0 success.

With Feng's singles bronze, the Singapore paddlers accomplished their target of returning from London with two medals.

"Even after the disappointing loss to Japan in the team semi-finals, our players bounced back very strongly," said Singapore Table Tennis Association president Lee Bee Wah, who flew home with the athletes.

"This never-say-die attitude is something that our young players need to learn from."

DPM Teo reiterated that message to the 60-odd youth paddlers - aged between nine and 12 - at the airport.

"For the young people here today, I want you to know that it is possible - if you have the ability, the commitment, the dedication and you want to do it for yourself and for Singapore," he said.

But the minister, who is also president of the Singapore National Olympic Council, made it clear that yesterday's welcome home ceremony was about the medal winners and their fans.

Cutting through the media scrum, he helped create a path for Li, Feng and Wang to greet the crowd, who promptly besieged them with photograph and autograph requests.

But, amid the delight, one question remained unanswered: Will the trio be back to challenge at the next Olympics - Rio 2016?

After their success in the team event, Singapore's top paddler Feng admitted that London would probably be "the last time that we'll be playing together".

That has raised doubts over the futures of Li, who turned 31 on Thursday, and Wang, 32. But they refused to commit either way.

"I haven't thought about it," said Wang. "I just want to take a break and spend some time with my family."

Li will announce a decision before the year is out. "If I were to stop playing, it would be with a heavy heart," she said.

"I won't say that these Games were definitely my last, but it would be quite a perfect ending."

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