Paddler Clarence can count on family support at SEA Games
Table tennis-loving family will be cheering on Clarence in his quest for gold at the Indoor Stadium
There is a shelf in Clarence Chew's room in the family's Upper Bukit Timah home which is filled with table tennis books.
Sheepishly, the 19-year-old Singapore national paddler says he is not the table tennis bookworm, but his dad Chew Soo Sheng.
Nearly the whole family loves table tennis.
Dad is a former national player and was once chief executive officer of the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA).
Mum is Chen Shuping, who was drafted into the China national team in 1979 at just 16.
While second child Carissa, 17, is more interested in the arts, the youngest, 11-year-old Cassandra, is in the STTA's youth development squad.
They will all be at the Singapore Indoor Stadium rousing the national paddlers and Clarence in their bid for gold at the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games in June.
Clarence is the only southpaw in the family, which is a blessing, said dad during a recent video shoot commissioned by STTA.
Speaking to The New Paper, Chew said: "When we found out that Clarence was left-handed, we thought it was such a blessing, because left-handers are usually 0.015 seconds faster than right-handers."
Clarence's mother left the China national team after 18 months, travelled to Hong Kong and then coached South Africa, before landing in Singapore to be a club coach, and soon met her future husband.
Clarence, an alumnus of the Singapore Sports School, started playing table tennis as a form of exercise.
He liked it, and encouragement came in the form of an autographed bat signed by former International Table Tennis Federation president Xu Yinsheng, who was his mother's coach in the Chinese national team.
He met the Chews in 2004 and gave Clarence a bat. On it, he wrote, "Work hard in your table tennis and play in the Olympics some day."
In 2010, the youngster represented Singapore at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games here - he exited the boys' singles competition in the second round - and the Olympics remains his biggest target.
The SEA Games is a stepping stone towards realising his dream, and Clarence said the experience of the 2010 event will help him.
"There were a lot of supporters in the Indoor Stadium back then, but I could still hear my parents' cheering through the noise.
"That somehow kept me calm during my matches."
Clarence joined the national B team with fellow Youth Olympian Isabelle Li the following year, and shortly after became a full national team member.
He was part of the outfit that won team golds at the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar and last year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
The World Table Tennis Championships, which starts on Sunday in China, and the SEA Games will be the world No. 191's main assignments this year.
Clarence has come a long way, but bigger hurdles lay ahead and mum said: "I am very proud of his progress.
"I was at a world-class level during my playing days, but the Chinese team then was already very competitive, and a lot of luck was needed in order for a paddler to succeed.
"Clarence has the opportunity to do what I couldn't do and I'm very happy."
Clarence's left is right
- Clarence, who is the only left-hander in his family of five, was initially taught to hold the table tennis bat with his right hand. However, his parents decided to groom him as a southpaw after noticing that he would naturally pass the bat to his left hand.
- He started training at the Singapore Table Tennis Association's zone training centre at Toa Payoh at age 5, and progressed through the youth development squad, the national B team, and now the main national team.
- He may seem like a quiet and reserved person, but his youngest sister Cassandra says Clarence, who has a collection of 15 Gundam figures, can be "quite a funny guy" if you're close to him.
- Clarence's sisters sometimes get comments from their friends, like "My classmate wants to be kor kor's (elder brother's) wife" and "your kor kor is very handsome".
"When we found out that Clarence was left-handed, we thought it was such a blessing, because lefthanders are usually 0.015 seconds faster than right-handers."
-- Clarence Chew's father Chew Soo Sheng
- When: June 1-4, 6-8
- Where: Singapore Indoor Stadium (ticketed)
- On offer: 7 gold medals
- Past SEA Games medal haul: 64 golds, 19 silvers, 55 bronzes
- Milestones: 1967 - Peck Noi Hwoy won Singapore's first-ever women's singles gold at the South-east Asian Peninsular Games in Bangkok, 1999 - Duan Yongjun won Singapore's first-ever men's singles gold, in Brunei.
- Did you know? Singapore have won the women's singles gold at every SEA Games since 1995. Current women's national coach Jing Junhong started the ball rolling that year. Also, current technical director Loy Soo Han won a mixed doubles bronze with Koh Li Ping when Singapore hosted the Games in 1993.
- The New Paper's medal prediction: The sport claimed all four gold medals at the 2013 Games in Myanmar, and all five titles at the 2011 Games in Indonesia. Expect Singapore to field a strong line-up of paddlers on home ground, as they stake their claim for all seven golds here in June.
TNP PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
44: The last SEA Games was held at Myanmar in 2013, ending a record 44-year wait in between hosting the biennial event.
Billed as the ''coming-out party'' of the once-reclusive nation, the Games gave Myanmar the opportunity to showcase not only its athletic prowess, but also its hospitality.
They won a record 86 golds, only behind Thailand who won 21 more, but this was far above Myanmar's previous best gold medal haul of 57, achieved in 1969 when it last hosted the Games.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF SINGSOC
44: Among the 17,000 volunteers who have signed up for the 28th SEA Games in June, there are 300 youths (and some parents) from programmes run by SportCares.
The youths started out as beneficiaries in the SportCares programme for the under-privileged and the at-risk.
At the Games, they will be serving with pride as floor managers and marshals at events, ambassadors on the buses and liaison reps at the relaxation lounge for overseas athletes.
With 44 days to go, the team of volunteers from Jurong Springs and Yio Chu Kang are celebrating the extraordinary as #OneTeamSG.