Paddlers aiming for clean sweep of golds
Women's table tennis coach Jing says target is on as team settle into new 'home'
The New Zealand rugby sevens team and Usain Bolt's Jamaican relay outfit are overwhelming favourites to win gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, which opens tomorrow in the Scottish city of Glasgow.
But an even surer bet would be the Singapore women's national table tennis team.
Jing Junhong's team, featuring Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu, Isabelle Li, Zhou Yihan and Lin Ye, are odds-on to win the women's team gold.
Victorious in 2002, 2006 and 2010, the Singaporeans are bidding to retain the title the Republic have won since table tennis became a Commonwealth Games sport in 2002.
Ahead of their first group match on Thursday, the message coach Jing has for her team is the same as before.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, the 45-year-old said: "The draw will be out tomorrow (Singapore time), we will take it one game at a time, but our target is to win another gold medal for Singapore."
The former singles' star identified India, Australia and England as the main rivals "because they have balanced teams", but remained confident of Singapore's chances after a fruitful two-week training tour of Austria.
"We analysed our possible opponents and picked sparring partners who play a similar unorthodox style," said Jing.
"We played against Austria's world No. 12 Liu Jia, France's world No. 43 Li Xue, and the top players from the Czech Republic who were also in Austria to train.
"After the two-week stint, we made the necessary adjustments. I think the training tour was better than we expected."
Jing revealed that the team are taking extra precautions following news last week of a suspected norovirus outbreak that has affected more than 50 people at the Athletes' Village.
"We are aware of the cases of illness reported in the media, and we also have some minor cases of stomach aches, but nothing major," she said.
"We will be very careful with what we eat.
"Perhaps it's because the Games have not started yet, the variety (of food) is lesser than in Delhi (at the previous Games).
"We are still getting used to it and perhaps it will improve after the opening ceremony.
"We landed in Glasgow on Saturday and we trained on Sunday. The facilities are not bad and we are getting used to the tables here.
"In terms of accommodation, it is different from the apartments in Delhi four years ago because the Games Village consists of houses now."
The men's and women's table tennis team events take place from Thursday to next Monday, before the singles events start next Tuesday.
At the last Commonwealth Games, Singapore's men's and women's table tennis teams won six golds, five silvers and one bronze medal, missing out on a clean sweep after losing the men's doubles gold to hosts India.
This time, the Singapore paddlers are looking for a clean sweep, and men's head coach Yang Chuanning told TNP: "Most teams have at most one strong doubles pairing but, in Gao Ning and Li Hu, Yang Zi and Zhan Jian, we have two very balanced duos.
"If we can handle the pressure and expectation, perform to our potential and play without any baggage, we stand a good chance of winning gold medals for Singapore."