Final heartache for Singapore's shuttlers
Not many would have thought Singapore's shuttlers would feature in two of the four gold-medal contests on the final day of badminton at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow yesterday.
Against all odds, a gallant Derek Wong fought his way into the men's singles final, while men's doubles pair Danny Chrisnanta and Chayut Triyachart also had a chance to return home with gold.
The trio had the chance to make history and become the first to win gold for Singapore in their respective events.
In the end, though, their fairy-tale run ended on a sour note at the Emirates Arena on the final day of competition of the 2014 Games.
Wong lost 21-14, 11-21, 21-19 to India's Kashyap Parupalli in an enthralling men's singles final. Parupalli became the first Indian man to win the badminton gold in 32 years.
Later, Chrisnanta and Chayut also succumbed in three sets, losing 21-12, 12-21, 21-15 to Malaysian pair Tan Wee Kiong and Goh Wei Shem.
Though disappointed, Wong was pleased with his unlikely run to the final, which surprised so many, including himself.
"Although some top players like (Malaysia's world No. 1) Lee Chong Wei didn't play here, there was a very good field of shuttlers," he told The New Paper, minutes after his defeat.
"There were several surprises, and I'm one of them... I never expected to get this far.
"It's disappointing to have lost in such a close final, but this tournament has taught me that I have what it takes.
"I'll definitely be coming back stronger next time."
Wong, world-ranked No. 39 and seeded sixth in Scotland, was clearly second best in the first set.
But, just he did in his semi-final against India's R V Gurusaidutt, the 25-year-old rallied in the second and looked on course for another huge upset against the second seed, Parupalli.
At one stage of the third set, he held a 12-9 lead, but Parupalli gained in confidence as he won nine of the next 12 points.
Wong dug deep and fought back and as the tension grew, things got testy on court when the Singaporean gestured to his opponent to be silent after the Indian protested a line call.
Wong, who before last night had lost two of three previous meetings with Parupalli, managed to level the contest at 19-19, but lost the final two points with crucial mistakes.
"It was a tense match. He shouted before the line judge made a call, and you can't do that. So that's why I gestured," Wong said.
"I wasn't steady enough during the final moments. Kashyap was mentally stronger. During the rubber set, a lot of it was psychological, and he was also a lot more aggressive.
"That was what my coach said after the match - I didn't take the initiative as much, and I should have."
Chrisnanta and Chayut were also the underdogs against Malaysia's Tan and Goh, who had upset England's top-seeded pair Chris Adcock and Andrew Ellis in the semi-finals.
Much like Wong, they started slow, losing the first set, but rallied in the second. The Malaysians then showed their superiority in the final set, capitalising on their quicker movement and smashes to grab the gold medal.
Said Chayut: "Our opponents played very well, and they also had the luck.We tried our best and, in the end, we're very happy to have made history for Singapore by reaching a doubles final.
"Hopefully, our juniors will do one better and win gold one day soon."
Wong will now turn his focus towards the World Championships in Copenhagen from Aug 25 to 31.
After that, he is hoping to be part of the Singapore contingent that will head off to Incheon, South Korea for the Asian Games from Sept 19 to Oct 4.
"It hasn't been decided who is going yet for the Asian Games, but hopefully after this, I'll get to compete in the Asian Games."
WOMEN'S SINGLES FINAL:
Michelle Li (Canada) beat Kirsty Gilmour (Scotland) 21-14, 21-7
WOMEN'S DOUBLES FINAL:
Vivian Hoo and Woon Khe Wei (Malaysia) beat Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa (India) 21-17, 23-21
MIXED DOUBLES FINAL:
Chris Adcock and Gabrielle Adcock (England) beat Chris Langridge and Heather Olver (England) 21-9, 21-12
For all the shuttlers, not just Derek, but Chayut and Danny, to get so far, it is not easy. Hopefully from here, I can see Derek improving on his game, especially on net play and control.
— Derek’s father Wong Shoon Keat