Wolfsburg: Draxler going nowhere
Monaco to meet Fenerbahce
Paddlers need team effort, says Jiawei
Former table-tennis star Li Jiawei says Singapore cannot rely only on Feng
Feng Tianwei has always returned home with at least one Olympic medal after each Games.
Singapore's table tennis star won a silver on her Olympic debut in 2008 in Beijing, as part of the women's team who finished second to the all-conquering hosts.
She was part of the same team that grabbed a bronze in London 2012, when Feng also finished third in the women's singles.
Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu, her teammates for the last two Olympics, have since retired, which suggests Feng will have more pressure on her shoulders to deliver in the team event.
If the women's team aim to make it a hat-trick of medals, it is clear Olympic debutants Yu Mengyu and Zhou Yihan will also have to step up.
Speaking to The New Paper recently, Li said: "It is hard for me to say if Singapore can continue to win medals because it really depends on how they perform on the actual day, and the difference between winning and losing could come down to the smallest details or just a few points.
"Winning medals will have to be achieved by a team effort and not an over-reliance on just one player.
"In 2008, even though I was the most experienced player on the team, Yuegu and Tianwei played equally important roles. We were really a strong and balanced team then.
"The doubles segment of the team event is also crucial and I remember teaming up with Yuegu to beat the South Koreans to give us a 2-1 lead in the semi-finals. We eventually won 3-2 and ended up with a silver."
With Liu Shiwen (world No. 1), Ding Ning (2) and Li Xiaoxia (5) in their team, China will almost certainly stroll to team gold.
The competition for silver and bronze will be between Japan, South Korea and Singapore, with North Korea, Taiwan and Germany all dangerous on their day.
Singapore's world No. 4 Feng, Yu (15) and Zhou (34) have risen up the rankings after recent results.
Feng, 29, remains the only player on the team to have beaten any of the three Chinese paddlers over the last four years.
Li, now 34, believes Feng has what it takes to win a medal in the women's singles again, despite the hectic schedule and niggling injuries to her shoulder and knee.
"Tianwei is very hard on herself as she sets very high standards in terms of performance and results," said Li.
"When it comes to table tennis, she is very serious but she is also a tough athlete who has proven that she can deliver when it matters most."
Feng also has the upper hand over all her Japanese rivals - Kasumi Ishikawa (world No. 6; 9-4 record), Ai Fukuhara (7; 13-3) and Mima Ito (9; 2-1) - which could prove vital after Singapore lost to Japan in the team semi-finals at the last Olympics.
Zhou, the youngest player on the team at 22, beat the higher-ranking South Korean duo of Jeon Ji Hee (11) and Yang Ha Eun (24) at last month's Japan Open.
She also partnered Lin Ye in a shock 3-0 doubles win over China's Liu and Ding 3-0 in last year's Japan Open semi-finals.
Meanwhile, Yu, 26, has fared well against the Japanese, overcoming Ito at last October's Polish Open, before beating Ishikawa in this year's final.
These results will influence the strategy employed by Singapore women's team coach Chen Zhibin, as he works out who to field for the first and second singles, taking into consideration his players' head-to-head record against various opponents.
"The improvement in world rankings will greatly help in the form of better seedings, which helps the team and individual players avoid strong opponents earlier in the competition," said former Singapore star Li, who has battled in four Olympics, starting in 2000.
"But the players still have to go out there and beat the lower-ranked opponents first. Otherwise, the better seedings will just be a number.
"This will be the first Olympics to be held in South America and there will be conditions to get used to and jet lag to overcome.
"The advantage will go to those who adapt fastest.
"I can understand the nerves and excitement of playing in their first Olympics, and I have gone through the transition from merely participating to being expected to win a medal.
"These are mental aspects they have to conquer, and the key difference between my time and now is Singapore table tennis is receiving a lot more support in terms of sports science and match exposure, which should stand our players in good stead."
“In 2008, even though I was the most experienced player on the team, Yuegu and Tianwei played equally important roles... I remember teaming up with Yuegu to beat the South Koreans to give us a 2-1 lead in the semi-finals.”
— Former Singapore Li Jiawei, on the importance of the younger players stepping up
Lopez: Schooling can create Olympic history
National coach Lopez says last year's world bronze makes Schooling a legitimate contender
There are 20 days to go to the opening of the 2016 Rio Olympics, where the swimming programme will possibly generate as much electricity as the 2008 Beijing Games, once again because of Michael Phelps.
In 2008, the American stormed to a record eight gold medals and, in Rio, he will call time on his magnificent career by looking to add to his astonishing haul of 18 Olympic golds and 22 in all.
Singapore swimming is also abuzz with excitement, despite fielding only three athletes for this year's Olympic Games.
Joseph Schooling, 21, is gunning for a historic first swimming medal for Singapore, Quah Zheng Wen, 19, is talking about making the semi-finals or even a final, and sister Quah Ting Wen, 23, is bummed that she's had to rely on a universality place to get a ticket after failing to make the 'A' cut.
The biggest excitement surrounds Schooling, obviously, and national coach Sergio Lopez believes he can deliver a medal.
In a phone interview from Paraguay, where the Quahs are in the midst of the final build-up towards the swimming competition that starts on Aug 6, Lopez said: "Joe can medal in the 100m butterfly.
"When I went to the 1988 Olympics as the ninth-fastest 200m breaststroke swimmer and ended up winning bronze, people thought it was a miracle, but I believed I could do it.
"Joe has proven himself by winning bronze in the 100m butterfly at the World Championships last year, so he has a legitimate chance to medal at the Olympics the same way the top guys like Michael Phelps, Chad le Clos, Laszlo Cseh and Konrad Czerniak do."
Before heading to Paraguay, 10 national swimmers, including the Quahs, were training and competing in Indianapolis and Florida since the end of May.
Schooling joined the national squad in Florida for three weeks before returning to Texas to train under his American coach, Eddie Reese.
Lopez said: "We have worked a lot since last September. We taper, work on the details, get as much speed out, turns, visualisation, be as rested and be in the best shape possible.
"We have trained in a relaxed environment. Being here together, being relaxed, it really makes them stronger.
"There's not much distraction. It's a good environment, and being in a good group makes them stronger."
Schooling will definitely swim the 100m butterfly, but will make a late decision on whether to go in the 100m freestyle or 200m butterfly.
Zheng Wen will swim the 100m backstroke and 100m and 200m butterfly, while Ting Wen will compete in the 100m butterfly.
While most of the attention will be on Schooling's medal charge, the progress Zheng Wen has made must not be overlooked.
ON A ROLL
After bagging a record 12 medals over all four strokes at last year's SEA Games, the backstroke specialist won two silvers and five bronzes from Fina's World Cup series and won gold in the men's 200m butterfly at the Indianapolis Arena Pro Swim last month.
Tipped by Lopez as a surprise package in Rio, as well as a medal contender for the 2020 Olympics, Zheng Wen said: "It's hard to define me by a certain stroke.
"I was stronger in the backstroke when I was younger because I had a natural flair for it and I like the backstroke more.
"But going into these Olympics, I've had more preparation for the butterfly and I'm comfortable with either stroke.
"I'm focused on doing well at these Olympics trying to go for a top 16 or top eight."
One of the initiatives the Singapore Swimming Association implemented after Lopez arrived in 2015 was the Foreign Athlete Sparring Programme.
Americans Kevin Cordes and Micah Lawrence, South African Michael Myers and Rex Tullius from the Virgin Islands - all former or soon-to-be Olympians - spent considerable time in Singapore training with Lopez and sparring against local swimmers.
Said Lopez: "They see swimming at a high level in a different way.
"It is not a scary thought any more to think that you can be in the final of the Olympics or even to win a medal."
Ting Wen added: "The mindset has changed. We are not going for the experience anymore.
"We want to race and compete with the best and see how far we can go among the best in the sport."
"The mindset has changed. We are not going for the experience any more. We want to race and compete with the best and see how far we can go among the best in the sport."
- Quah Ting Wen
Teacher under probe for calling pupils 'retarded monkeys'
She allegedly threw marker pens and staplers at children. This teacher also called pupils a 'disgrace to God' and 'retarded monkeys'. A mother complains that there was no proper intervention from the school
She has been accused of denigrating her pupils with such insults as "a disgrace to God" and "a bunch of retarded monkeys".
The teacher has also allegedly threw objects such as staplers, marker pens and water bottles at the children, and made them kneel in front of the class for talking.
The New Paper understands that parents have been complaining about the Gongshang Primary School teacher since March.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Education said the teacher was taken off all teaching duties this week while it investigates the complaints.
Mr George Cheah, the school's vice-principal (administration), said in a statement on Thursday night that it "takes any misconduct of our teachers very seriously". (See report)
The mother of a Primary 5 boy whom the teacher allegedly called "a disgrace to God" told The New Paper on Thursday that she and her husband complained to the principal and vice-principals on Monday.
Madam Josephine Chua, 42, also lodged a complaint with the Ministry that afternoon.
The principal called her later that day to say that the teacher, who teaches science and mathematics, would be replaced for core subjects, but would still teach non-core subjects in school.
A circular was issued by the school on Tuesday that another teacher will be taking over her lessons.
Madam Chua was not pleased with this arrangement and decided to speak to the media.
Describing the arrangement as just "downplaying the severity of the matter", she told TNP: "Very little has been done, and there has been no proper or appropriate intervention from the school."
She said that when she found her son sobbing and saying that he was "a disgrace to God", she knew she had to do something.
She was shocked to learn that his science teacher had made that demeaning remark thrice after he misbehaved in class.
She found out from her son only about two weeks ago when she had to acknowledge a remark from the teacher in his journal.
"That actually threw me off," said the housewife. "I just felt really sorry for him."
Her son was also made to kneel in front of the class beside the teacher's table with another pupil when they were caught talking.
Her son confirmed that it happened more than once.
Since March this year, several parents had complained to the form teacher of her son's class about the science teacher throwing marker pens, staplers and water bottles at the pupils whenever she was angry.
Madam Chua said that she knows of at least eight other parents who have made complaints against this teacher.
TNP understands that a pupil suffered a cut lip after a marker pen hit him.
After Madam Chua highlighted the matter to the science head of department in April, another teacher was made to sit in for lessons.
She alleged that the teacher continued her behaviour after the June school holidays and intimidated the pupils. "If you're constantly in an environment like that, you really won't enjoy going to school," she said.
Another parent, Madam Joey Hoe, 32, said it was a "daily affair" that her son was scolded by the teacher for being chatty. She is the form teacher in the boy's Primary 3 class.
Madam Hoe also recalled an incident where the teacher told the class that she knew whose parents had made complaints against her.
"My son came home and kept asking me if I had made any complaints to the school," said the general manager. "He looked so afraid, and when I told him I didn't, he was so relieved."
Madam Hoe's son recounted several instances when the teacher forcefully grabbed him by his arm and pulled him to sit on the floor with the chair as his table.
Recalling the teacher as "helpful" and "friendly", Madam Hoe said: "I am quite surprised that she is such a terror to the kids in class."
Another parent, who declined to be named, said her son, who is in the same class as Madam Chua's son, had seen the teacher throw a marker pen, which hit his classmate on the head.
He also told his mother that he has to "be alert and learn to dodge" when the teacher throws marker pens in class.
In February, the teacher called her son and a few classmates "a bunch of retarded monkeys" for forgetting to bring their science books two days in a row, she said.
She recalled another incident when her son had to move closer to the whiteboard to make out what was written because of his high myopia.
But the teacher told him to return to his seat and said: "Too bad that you can't see, go get new spectacles."
Madam Chua feels strongly that something should be done about the teacher, empathising with the pupils because they are helpless.
She said: "Every kid has the right to study in a safe and conducive environment."
My son came home and kept asking me if I had made any complaints to the school. He looked so afraid, and when I told him I didn't, he was so relieved.
- Madam Joey Hoe
Watch out for high stress levels
Teacher under probe by MOE
When she found out that her son's Science teacher made a demeaning remark that wounded his feelings, she knew she had to do something about it. Madam Josephine Chua, 42, lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Education (MOE) after she was displeased with the arrangement of the school, Gongshang Primary School. The teacher is relieved of teaching duties for core subjects, but will still be teaching in the school. "Removing her from two classes is downplaying the severity of the matter," said Madam Chua, who also has a daughter in Primary Three. Several parents have also complained to the form teacher about this particular teacher throwing items at students. Items included marker pens, staplers and waterbottles. Get the full story in our print edition July 16. Subscribe to The New Paper in print and digital at www.tinyurl.com/getTNP.