Young Singapore male paddlers show their potential with four golds
The retirement of stalwarts Gao Ning, Yang Zi, Zhan Jian and Pang Xue Jie in recent years, and the sacking of Li Hu for disciplinary reasons, have left a void in Singapore's men's table tennis team. But the next generation is ready to step up.
Led by 22-year-old Clarence Chew, the team featuring mostly teenagers put up a strong showing at the Nov 15-18 South-east Asian (SEA) Table Tennis Championships in Bali, Indonesia - winning four golds (singles, doubles, team and mixed doubles), two silvers and three bronzes.
Chew took the singles gold by beating Koen Pang, who partnered Ethan to doubles success.
The women added a singles title as Singapore won five out of seven events, and had four silvers and seven bronzes as well.
More impressively, the paddlers swept the top four positions in both singles.
The crop of talented youngsters bodes well for next year's SEA Games in the Philippines.
"Players like Clarence and Ethan have been to several major games. They have also won SEA Games medals," said Singapore Table Tennis Association's senior high performance manager Eddy Tay.
"This year, Koen reached the men's doubles semi-finals at the Commonwealth Games and finished in the top eight of the Youth Olympics.
"With such strong showing, we think they deserve to be selected for the SEA Games."
Koen, 16, admitted that there is now more pressure on local-born players like him to step up, but he relishes the challenge.
He said: "Since the China-born players stepped down, the pressure is on us, the local-born paddlers, to produce the results.
"It helps that we train together often. It has helped to build understanding, chemistry and friendship among the players."
While the women's team can still count on their A-listers, Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu, the young ones showed their potential at the SEA Championships, with Goi Rui Xuan, 17, defeating Wong Xin Ru, 16, 4-1 in the singles final.