Singapore's women's table tennis team make it to Tokyo Olympics
Women's team beat Holland 3-2, with Feng winning both her singles matches
Singapore women's table tennis team booked their spot at this year's Olympic Games, after beating Holland 3-2 yesterday.
They were among 30 nations competing at the ITTF World Team Qualification Tournament in Gondomar, Portugal, where nine spots were up for grabs.
In the opening match of the Round-of-16 tie, Singapore's Yu Mengyu and Lin Ye lost 11-9, 7-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-6 to Dutch veterans Li Jiao and Li Jie.
But world No. 8 Feng Tianwei levelled the tie with a comfortable 11-9, 11-6, 11-8 win over Britt Eerland (No. 25).
The next clash was expected to be close as Yu (No. 52) took on the 35-year-old Li Jie, ranked three rungs lower.
But, after Yu, 30, won the first game 11-8, Li Jie retired at 2-0 down in the second. She had suffering a suspected calf injury at the end of the first game.
Singapore, seeded third, were forced to play the rubber match following Lin's 11-8, 8-11, 11-6, 11-7 defeat by Eerland in the fourth match.
In the rubber, Feng's aggressive attack proved too much for the 47-year-old defence-minded Li Jiao, who lost 11-8, 13-15, 11-5, 11-5.
The win over the 11th-seeded Holland not only earned Singapore a team spot in Tokyo, but also ensured that their top two players - Feng and Yu - will be given spots in the singles event at the July 24-Aug 9 Olympics.
"I had confidence in Feng Tianwei in the rubber match, she has been through many major competitions," said women's team coach Hao Anlin.
"It was not easy qualifying, it was a team effort. Now that we have qualified, we will work hard for a medal."
The Republic qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics through their rankings. The team finished fourth, while Feng and Yu lost in the singles quarter-finals.
"It's different this time from Rio, as we have to play a qualification tournament and all the teams are hungry for a place in the Olympics," said Feng, 33, the singles bronze medallist at London 2012 .
"It hasn't been easy for us. We worked really hard in our preparations, even when some of us were injured or unwell.
"I know that I play a crucial role in each tie, but the team spirit is equally important...
"Through the qualifiers, I also found some areas that I need to work on. I hope that I can become a more well-rounded player ahead of the Olympics.
"Looking forward to competing at Tokyo 2020."
In the men's qualifiers, Singapore - represented by Josh Chua, SEA Games gold and silver medallists Koen Pang and Clarence Chew respectively - lost 3-2 to Hong Kong in the Round of 32.
Said men's team coach Gao Ning: "We gave a good fight against Hong Kong. I am proud of their performance.
"It was a pity that we could not sustain the lead in the first two games of the doubles match."