I don’t usually blog about Olympics stuffs, but I guess this is too good to miss. Singapore’s table tennis duo is in the run for the silver medal – if they manage to defeat their nemesis – the South Korean duo in today’s semi-finals. However, should they lose, they will be in a 6-team play-off for the bronze medal. The Singapore duo has smashed their way through to the semi-finals through 3 straight victories, only to face possibly the second toughest pair in the semi-finals – Kim Kyung Ah (World No. 11) and Park Mi Young (World No. 21). The latter are known to be defensive players and it will almost be a test of stamina during the match. The team pairing was done using a draw and it does seem that Singapore got the shortest stick. Will their streak of victories end at the hands of the South Korean duo? Catch it live at HD5 at 2:30pm today (15th August 2008).

Moment of truth

Beat South Korea today, and Singapore are guaranteed the silver medal. Lose, and Singapore will go into a six-team play-off for the bronze

By Marc Lim, Sports Correspondent

BEIJING: At around 6pm today, Singapore will know if their long Olympic medal drought is over.

Or if the wait will continue.

At around 6pm today, Li Jiawei will know if her birthday wish to end 48 years of hurt has come true.

Or if her nemesis from the 2004 Athens Olympics, South Korea’s Kim Kyung Ah, has managed to put one over her again.

The luck of the draw often decides the fate of teams. And it is safe to say that Singapore drew the shortest stick in the women’s team tournament yesterday.

In South Korea, Singapore have the toughest possible opponents they could have gotten in the tournament draw.

As second seeds, Singapore had already been assured of avoiding top seeds China until the final.

But yesterday, their chances of featuring in the gold-medal match and, more importantly, being guaranteed at least a silver, took a blow.

‘It’s a tough draw,’ admitted national coach Liu Guodong, whose charges had earlier trounced the Netherlands 3-0 to top their qualifying group and book a semi-final berth.

‘But, if we want to make it to the final, we have to beat even the strongest opposition.”

Singapore would have preferred to meet China’s semi-final opponents Hong Kong, whom they beat 3-1 in the 2006 Asian Games.

Also, Singapore’s Feng Tianwei does not usually do well against defensive players like the South Korean choppers.

It was only in May, at the China Open, that Li and Co lost 1-3 to the Korean team of Dang Ye Seo, Park Mi Young and Kim.

Kim will be a name familiar to them, as she was the one who beat Li in the women’s singles bronze-medal play-off at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Kim and Park are the two choppers – or defensive-style players – in the Korean side. As a doubles pair, they have been invincible against Singapore opponents.

Said Korea’s coach Hyun Jung Hwa: ‘Our doubles pair are better than Singapore’s and that’s why we think we have a better chance against them.

‘We are happy with the draw. Playing China would have been a 70-30 prospect for us. Against Singapore, we have a 50-50 chance.’

The best-of-five team format consists of two singles, a doubles, followed by two more singles if necessary. Every player will have to feature in at least one singles match if the tie goes all the way.

Both teams are almost certain to keep to their doubles pairings of Kim-Park and Li-Wang.

Li and Wang Yuegu have been training together for only a month and are Singapore’s weakest link.

They showed it again yesterday when they were taken to five games by the Netherlands’ Li Jie and Elena Timina before prevailing 11-8, 5-11, 6-11, 11-6, 11-7.

Said Li of the doubles: ‘We weren’t very good today, we weren’t playing our best, which explains the five-setter.’

But the players’ individual form, including Feng’s, has been encouraging.

None of the trio has dropped a game in Beijing, with Li looking the most solid.

But, against Korea, it is Wang who will be the key.

Said the Netherlands’ coach Pieke Fransen, whose team also boast two choppers: ‘Wang is the best player in the Singapore team to handle defensive players. She is more patient than the rest.’

Indeed, patience will be needed if Singapore want to beat Korea.

Said Japan’s coach Kinji Kondo, whose team lost 0-3 to Korea yesterday: ‘My advice to the Singapore team is to be patient. Korea’s doubles needed five games to beat us, so they can be beaten.’

Singapore coach Liu said that a win would prove that Singapore are worthy title contenders, adding: ‘We have come this far, now we just have to believe that we can do it.’

At about 6pm today, Singapore will find out if they can indeed do it.

marclim@sph.com.sg

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Sport/Story/STIStory_268328.html

Article extracted from straitstimes.com on 15th August 2008



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