Women paddlers secure Asian Games bronze with semi-final place
Alongside her teammates, she stood at attention and bowed on the competition floor of the Suwon Gymnasium in Incheon yesterday, as Singapore's women's table tennis team were introduced to the crowd.
But something was amiss - Yu Mengyu was not dressed for battle.
While the other four - Feng Tianwei, Lin Ye, Zhou Yihan and Isabelle Li - had stripped down to their playing attire, Yu was still decked in track pants.
The 25-year-old did not take to the table in Singapore's 3-0 win over India in last night's women's team quarter-final because of an old back injury.
She will play no further part in the Asian Games, which does not bode well for the Republic's hopes of advancing to the final.
"Of course we're happy, we've got the bronze medal (now). And especially so because we've had to cope without Mengyu," said coach Jing Junhong.
In all seven table tennis events at the Asiad, losing semi-finalists will all receive bronze as there is no third-place play-off.
Feng opened last night's match with a comfortable 3-0 (11-7, 11-8, 11-7) win over the lanky Manika Batra, but things got tougher from then on.
Lin faced a plucky Ankita Das, needing four sets to triumph 3-1 (11-9, 11-8, 6-11, 11-8), before Zhou beat Poulomi Ghatak 3-0 (11-5, 13-11, 11-9) to seal the team's passage into the semi-finals.
Feng and Co will face Japan - who beat Hong Kong 3-0 yesterday - at 7.30pm today for a place in the gold-medal match.
With an experienced side including Li Jiawei, Wang Yuegu, Sun Beibei, as well as Feng, Yu helped Singapore to a women's team silver-medal showing at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.
But a repeat of that feat seems like a tall order this time round, especially with Singapore fielding a younger and less experienced side than the one who finished second behind China four years ago.
The women will have to take on Japan without their second-best player in Yu, who is ranked 10th in the world, behind Feng (4th).
"Mengyu's injury is a big blow to the team and, of course, we will feel the impact," said Jing.
"Against India, the 3-0 score didn't reflect just how tough the game was... even the group game against Taiwan was hard (without Mengyu)."
Singapore beat Taiwan 3-2 in a Group B preliminary fixture on Saturday.
Jing revealed that Lin will replace Yu in the singles competition, while Li will partner Feng in the doubles.
Singapore will go into the semi-final as the underdogs, as the Japanese are ranked No. 2 in the International Table Tennis Federation team rankings, one rung above the Republic.
But Jing insists the underdog tag suits her charges just fine.
"Japan are hard to play against, but there's no burden or pressure on us, so we will just go out and fight," she said.
The other semi-final will see China take on North Korea. The mighty Chinese saw off Taiwan 3-0 while North Korea defeated arch-rivals South Korea 3-1 in their respective quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, in men's team quarter-final action last night, Singapore fell 3-0 to hosts South Korea 3-0, with Gao Ning, Chen Feng and Li Hu all losing in straight sets.