Feng absent at STTA Awards ceremony
Table tennis body introduces new format of recognising athletes
She was Singapore table tennis' top performer last year, finishing third at both the World Cup and Asian Cup competitions.
But world No. 4 Feng Tianwei was a conspicuous absentee in the honour roll for the annual Keppel-Singapore Table Tennis Association's (STTA) Awards ceremony at Hotel Miramar last night.
While the national sports association has awarded best player gongs at previous ceremonies, it decided this year to do away with that, instead doling out accolades such as the Role Model Award and Inspirational Award.
"We wanted a change because we wanted to evolve, and it happens that we have a group of youngsters who have done well," said STTA president Ellen Lee on the sidelines of last night's ceremony.
"We want to give them that recognition and use this opportunity to let them know that their efforts do pay off."
When a journalist probed further about the absence of Feng at the event, Lee said the association has "moved on".
"She is no longer at the STTA... all this while, we have been recognising Feng Tianwei for what she has done and we are grateful for what she has done.
"I think it's about time that we also let the recognition be given and spread on to other players as well."
The STTA and Feng parted ways late last year, with the association citing the need for rejuvenation.
Also, since the Rio Olympics last August, the STTA has lost players such as Li Hu, Yang Zi and Chen Feng, either through retirements or sackings.
In addition, the association will face a strain on its coffers, as its government funding is likely to be cut from this April, while major corporations such as 100 Plus and Mitsubitshi Electric have concluded their sponsorship deals with STTA.
But Lee is optimistic that her organisation can still run its programmes with little disruption.
She said: "We have to review and reprioritise the different projects that we have, but it will not be a big impact for us because we still have reserves to dig into."
Polishing young local-born players, such as Ethan Poh and Darren Loy, in the coming years will be a priority for the association, as it aims to field a Singapore-born player at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur this August will be a barometer of the NSA's rejuvenation plans.
In 2015, Singapore won six golds in seven events, losing the women's singles gold to Thailand.
While the men's team have lost several experienced players this year, Pang Xue Jie has returned to the fold as a professional last week, and is expected to lead the men's team with Clarence Chew and Gao Ning.
While Lee conceded that the Republic may not be as dominant as in previous Games, she is confident the players can still bring home the gold medals from the Malaysian capital.
She said: "Winning is not everything, the most important thing is that we have players who have Singapore's interests at heart.
"If you look at players such as Clarence and Xue Jie, they have played at previous SEA Games and won medals too.
"So, with increased training and the extra effort put in, we don't doubt that they will bring in medals for us."
HONOUR ROLL (Selected):
- Role Model Award: Gao Ning
- Outstanding Performance at the Rio Olympics Award: Zhou Yihan
- Outstanding Performance at the South-east Asian Table Tennis Championships Award: Lin Ye
- Inspirational Award: Clarence Chew
- Achiever Award: Zeng Jian
- Special Award: Pang Xue Jie