Countdown to Tokyo: Singapore paddlers optimistic amidst doubts over Olympiad

Singapore's Olympic Games bound table tennis athletes to depart for month-long training camp in Japan for acclimatisation

Image credit: Singapore Table Tennis Association

"That the Olympic Games can still proceed in the current climate amidst a global pandemic is in itself a success."

Those were the words shared by Ms Ellen Lee, JP, PBM, Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) President.

Her sentiments were echoed by athletes and officials alike at a press conference held this morning via zoom with members of Singapore's media.

Such is the fluid nature of the pandemic however, that the STTA is not setting any fixed targets for this edition of the Olympic Games.

They are also taking no chances - adhering to the strictest level of measures from training right through to protocols in handling their stay in Japan over the course of the next month.

Image credit: Singapore Table Tennis Association

All officials and athletes have been vaccinated, are moving around in groups of 5, and adorning masks at all times outside of trainings. Even when they arrive in Japan, Team Singapore will travel in bubbles and have limited access to third parties.

Athletes are only allowed to stay in the hotels, with movement also limited to transiting to training and competition venues.

Daily swab tests will also be carried out, and this is extended to the sparring partners who will be brought into the bubble to join in for trainings.

The team will depart for Shimada City, Shizuoka this Sunday 27 June, as part of a centralised training camp for the athletes, with the acclimatisation process also in mind.

Image credit: Singapore Table Tennis Association

The STTA have recruited the help of sparring partners from elite local Japanese clubs in order to keep its athletes at their sharpest leading up to the Games.

While a lack of international competition over the past year has meant that Team Singapore's paddlers have had limited exposure and opportunities to test themselves against the world's best, this has allowed them to focus on recovery, recuperation and injury management.

Olympic debutants feeling excited with a tinge of nerves

For Clarence Chew, who is the republic's sole male representative in this year's Olympic Games Table Tennis competition, the focus is all on having a good preparation and abiding by the rules and safe management measures.

Image credit: Singapore Table Tennis Association

When asked what he will be expecting out of his first Olympic Games, Chew shared: "I intend to enjoy every moment on court, make Singapore proud and not have any regrets, especially after the many years of hard work and sacrifice I have made to finally make it here."

Chew also admitted to sharing a good relationship with his team mate Koen Pang, in spite of beating him to the only qualifying spot in the Final of the Southeast Asian qualifiers for the Games.

The two also met in the 2019 SEA Games final, an occasion which Pang emerged victorious, clinching the gold medal.

Video credit: Singapore Table Tennis Association

Chew shared pensively: "It's never easy to play against your own teammate in a final. It's a real pity that we only have one slot this time around, but Koen is still young."

"He has great potential and will have many more opportunities (to qualify for the Olympics)," he added.

"Hopefully we can both continue to give our best and bring glory to Singapore and Singapore table tennis for years to come."

Image credit: Singapore Table Tennis Association

Fellow Olympics debutant Lin Ye, who will be competing in the Women's Team event, admits to not having the easiest of preparations for this year's Games, but is grateful that in spite of the circumstances the Games is likely to go on and she will be giving her best effort.

"We have not had the benefit of high level competition for over a year, and although we do have sparring partners to come in and help expose us to different styles, it is still different from the feeling of being in an actual competition," she said.

"Even then, I will give my best for Singapore and hopefully if all goes well, possibly get a medal."

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics is slated to be held from 23 July to 8 August 2021 in Tokyo, Japan, having been postponed from last year owing to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Full Team Line-up for Tokyo 2020 Men's Table Tennis Clarence Chew (Men's Singles)

Women's Table Tennis

Feng Tian Wei (Women's Singles, Women's Team)

Yu Meng Yu (Women's Singles, Women's Team) Lin Ye (Women's Team)

For the full Tokyo 2020 Table Tennis Competition Schedule, visit here.

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