Yes, the Singapore team has finally emerged as runner-ups in the table tennis team women event in Beijing 2008 Olympics. Yesterday, Singapore faced World No. 1 team China in a match that saw the latter winning 3-0. Feng took an unexpected lead in the beginning but that was about as close as we could in our bid for the gold medal. Soon after, Wang trashed Feng, followed by Li Jiawei, who was also trashed by Zhang Yining. Finally, in the first doubles, Singapore lost, but not without giving a good fight. If you have missed the games last night, do check out the live blogging done yesterday. Indeed, it was one of the most exciting matches that I have ever watched as I held my breath every time a game starts.

We were also commenting on how Feng’s performance was unexpected and speculating if this would be Li Jiawei’s last game professionally. Everyone will most probably remember Feng as the life saver for a silver medal in the last singles match against South Korea and how Li Jiawei seemed to have fretted. However, I still think the women’s table tennis team have done an excellent job and that we should all be proud of them. One thing I felt strongly thought, Feng is Singapore’s gain and China’s loss.

Silver, but they’re our Golden Girls

Much to be proud of even though Singapore lost to juggernaut China

By Marc Lim, Sports Correspondent

BEIJING: The medals were silver, but the mood felt like pure gold.

Singapore’s women table tennis players finished their Beijing adventure as runners-up to the world’s most formidable team from China.

In Beijing and across Singapore, the country’s first Olympic medal in almost half a century was reason to cheer. And how they roared.

Li Jiawei, Wang Yuegu and Feng Tianwei were all smiles at the end of their 92-minute battle. They lost 3-0, but this proved the longest game the Chinese champions had fought in the tournament.

All around them, from team officials to Singaporeans in the stands of the Peking University Gymnasium, there were only proud faces, Singapore flags raised high, and loud cheers.

Poignantly, it was Mr Ng Ser Miang, the International Olympic Committee executive board member from Singapore, who presented the medals to the silver medallists and gave each of them a hug of congratulations.

He said afterwards: ‘At the Athens Games, Jiawei came so close to winning a medal. Winning it now makes today’s medal all the sweeter.’

Beijing-born Li said: ‘I am very excited to win the silver medal. It is my way of repaying Singapore for having confidence in me and grooming me all these years.

‘I’m really happy and feel like crying.’

She had wept after last Friday’s epic 3-2 semi-final win over South Korea. That battle lasted almost four hours and earned the Singapore trio their date with China last night.

But beating world champions China in front of 5,000 boisterous fans – including Chinese President Hu Jintao – was always going to be a tall order.

Not to mention that Singapore had not beaten China in the team event in two previous encounters, losing 0-3 and 1-3 in the Asian and World Championships.

Feng Tianwei, the heroine in the battle against South Korea, gave Singapore an unexpected lead, taking the first game 11-9 against 2000 Olympic singles champion Wang Nan.

But that was about the closest Singapore came to winning on a night when China showed why they are the undisputed champions of the game.

Cheered on by the flag-waving home crowd, Wang recovered to win 11-3, 11-8, 11-6 and take the first game.

Li, who had suffered a heartbreaking bronze-medal loss at the 2004 Athens Olympics, also took the first game against world No. 1 Zhang Yining.

But after the 9-11 loss, Zhang – a former teammate of Li’s at Beijing Shichahai Sports School in the 1990s – stormed back 11-3, 11-4, 11-7.

Two games up and with the atmosphere becoming almost carnival-like in the arena, it was left to Zhang and world No. 2 Guo Yue to seal China’s victory.

They made light work of Singapore’s Li and Wang Yuegu, winning 11-8, 11-5, 11-6.

Wang Nan confessed afterwards that nerves had affected her performance.

She said: ‘As table tennis is China’s national sport, everyone expects China to win the gold. I was very nervous, but as soon as I got involved in the match, I shook off the nerves.’

Singapore had expected Feng to face Zhang in the opener and then for Li to take on Wang Nan in the second game.

Both Feng and Li had beaten Zhang and Wang Nan respectively in matches earlier this year.

But a tweak to China’s usual line-up wrecked Singapore’s plans.

Still, Singapore coach Liu Guodong maintained that his team played to their best, and went as far as to rate them 100/100.

‘It’s impossible to beat China. We prepared for the other teams. We met opponents that we did not want to meet, like South Korea, but we managed to beat them,’ he said.

‘China are the best, but among all the other countries, we are the best.

‘Our mission was to deliver a medal and we won the silver. We can be very proud of that.’

The pocket of Singapore fans at the final yesterday agreed.

Said 29-year-old Neo Yong Aik, a Singaporean working in Beijing who was there with two friends: ‘It would have been nice if they had won, but just being here today is special.

‘To see the Singapore flag being raised at the Olympics, it is truly historic.’

Singapore National Olympic Committee president and Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean called the team’s effort ‘tremendous’.

President S R Nathan, who is in Henan, sent his congratulations too, saying: ‘In the finals, our team met a formidable team with a world reputation; they did their best and therefore have no reason to be disheartened.

‘In my eyes, they remain proud.’

Source: Straits Times Interactive,

Article extracted on 18th August 2008

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