Table Tennis: 31st SEA Games a perfect platform for Singapore's new generation of paddlers to shine

Singapore Table Tennis Association fields youthful side in Vietnam, recommitting to its vision of grooming more table tennis stars for the world stage

Koen Pang is the defending champion for the table tennis men's singles competition. PHOTO: JOHN YEONG, SPORTPLUS.SG

Singapore, 4 May 2022 - Singapore will field a youthful side in the sport of table tennis at the 31st SEA Games, which includes 17 year-old debutant Zhou Jingyi, with the Games set to go ahead in a week's time.

The Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) shared today that it had arranged for sparring partners from Japan, France, China and Canada for a centralised training camp for its athletes leading up to the Games, with the team set to depart for Vietnam next Tuesday, 10 May 2022.

This year's SEA Games table tennis competition will comprise seven (7) events, and will witness a return of team events, which did not feature at the 2019 edition in the Philippines.

Women's doubles pair Goi Ruixuan (left) and Wong Xinru will be making their second SEA Games appearance. PHOTO: JOHN YEONG, SPORTPLUS.SG

Commitment to Grooming Youth Stars

Shorn of its more established stars with Yu Mengyu announcing her retirement in recent months, and Feng Tianwei giving up her spot, President of the STTA Ms Ellen Lee confirmed the association's commitment to youth development at the Games.

"We are fielding a new generation of players for the upcoming SEA Games," said Lee. "It won't be easy for the young players to fill the shoes of their seniors. Nonetheless, I have utmost faith in our paddlers and I have no doubts that our paddlers will set out to do their best for Singapore."

Assisted by a team of very experienced coaches such as Gao Ning and Jing Junhong, the men's and women's teams will also be supported by other veterans of the Games.

20 year-old Koen Pang has had reduced training intensity leading up to these SEA Games due to national service, but is hopeful of doing well in the men's singles competition. PHOTO: JOHN YEONG, SPORTPLUS.SG

Tactical and Emotional Maturity the Key for Koen Pang

Defending Men's Singles champion Koen Pang is optimistic of the team's chances despite Singapore fielding an almost entirely new squad, insisting that the team can put up a good fight and good showing against strong Thai and Vietnamese opposition.

"This SEA Games being the first major games after the pandemic, it will definitely be a big stepping stone for me to see where I am against all the top players in Southeast Asia," said the 20 year-old, who is currently still serving National Service.

"I hope to become more emotionally mature, that's a big area I am working on for my game. I hope to improve in that area - the ability to control my status in the game, and improve on some of my tactical attributes as well."

Goi Ruixuan won bronze at the 2019 SEA Games women's doubles competition. PHOTO: JOHN YEONG, SPORTPLUS.SG

Women's Doubles Pair Feeling Optimistic

Goi Ruixuan and Wong Xinru, bronze medalists for the women's doubles at the 2019 SEA Games, will make their second SEA Games appearance and are staying positive ahead of the competition at Hai Duong Gymnasium in the northern province of Hai Duong.

Shared Wong: "Previously when we played our first edition (of the SEA Games), there wasn't a lot of expectations on us. Now that we have more experience playing in the world table tennis circuit, there is more expectations but it's also something we have to learn to deal with."

"We always encourage each other, and I just hope we can do our best and achieve what we have set out to do."

Goi was quick to agree with her teammate saying, "There is plenty of uncertainty from the other countries and how they have been training, but I feel that through the past few competitions with Xinru, our performances and chemistry have greatly improved."

Wong Xinru believes added competition experience from the world table tennis circuit places her and Goi Ruixuan on a better footing than in 2019. PHOTO: JOHN YEONG, SPORTPLUS.SG

"It's a whole new squad going for these SEA Games, so for us it's a new challenge particularly in the team event. But we are hopeful we can put up a good fight and do Singapore proud," she finished.

Singapore failed to land a gold medal in both the men's and women's doubles competition at the last SEA Games outing, which has led to some concerns on whether the young squad can mount a challenge this time, expectations which men's team coach Gao Ning was quick to address.

"Thailand and Vietnam are strong opposition, I would even say they are around the same level as us, so there is no guarantee we would win or lose when we face them, even though people are expecting us to win every match," said the five-time SEA Games men's singles gold medalist.

SEA Games men's singles silver medalist Clarence Chew (left) took part in the Tokyo olympics, together with Koen Pang pose for the cameras. PHOTO: JOHN YEONG, SPORTPLUS.SG

"The only thing we can do is to focus on ourselves, and have the best preparations possible before the competition rather than be distracted by factors that are outside of our control."

Echoing his sentiments was women's team coach Jing Junhong, who said: "At the last edition of the SEA Games, there was a huge difference in terms of level of experience between the Thai paddlers and our youthful side. They have also had the benefit of playing together for over 10 years."

"Our paddlers go into the doubles competition this time round wanting to give their best, and we are confident they will put up a good fight and be happy with whatever outcomes they achieve."

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