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STTA still upbeat for 2020

The Straits Times by NICOLE CHIA

Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) president Ellen Lee believes that the Republic's slumping players are still capable of winning medals at the 2020 Olympics and world championships.

Speaking to The Straits Times at the Jakarta International Expo where the Asian Games table tennis competition is being held, she said: "There's still a two-year period to go before Tokyo, so it will mean a lot of hard work, dedication and focus on the game."

Former Singapore coach Liu Guodong also believes the Lion City can roar on the Olympic stage in 2020 - but only if he were the coach.

"If I were to take the team, I am confident they can win medals in Tokyo," said Liu, who had guided the Republic to a historic women's team silver at the 2008 Beijing Games but is now the coach of Hong Kong.

In order for Singapore to achieve that, however, he feels the management of the team needs to improve.

The 44-year-old, who had left the STTA fold under acrimonious circumstances, said: "The 'winning formula' of the 2008 success wasn't kept... Players and coaches don't ask for much, we just want sparring, training (opportunities)."

 


Singapore's Feng Tianwei on her way to a 4-0 win over Pakistan's Aisha Iqbal Ansari in the round of 32 yesterday. She faces Jeon Ji-hee in the last 16 today, having lost 0-3 to the South Korean in the team quarter-finals. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

 

But Lee, who watched Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu and Gao Ning advance to the last 16 of the singles competitions yesterday, insisted that the STTA would leave no stone unturned in seeking to get back on the Olympic podium, saying: "We will provide all the opportunities possible, continuing to send them to tournaments for them to (hone) their skills."

Liu had coached Singapore from 2006 till the end of 2008. In 2009, he was involved in a public spat with the STTA after he felt that then president Lee Bee Wah's explanation of why he had not been nominated for the Coach of the Year accolade at the annual Singapore Sports Awards besmirched his character and reputation.

TEAM CAN STILL DO IT WITH A CAVEAT

If I were to take the team, I am confident they can win medals in Tokyo.

'' LIU GUODONG, former Singapore coach.


KEEPING THE FAITH

So long as we continue to provide them with opportunities and they train hard, I believe we can still win medals at whatever level.

'' ELLEN LEE , STTA chief, on the outlook.

The Singapore women's team crashed out of the Asian Games competition after a 3-1 defeat by South Korea in the quarter-finals on Monday. It is the first time since 1998 that the women's team will not return home with an Asiad medal - they clinched joint bronze at the last edition in 2014.

Their quarter-final exit in Jakarta is the latest in a string of declining results. After the women's team clinched Olympic silver - a first for the sport in Singapore - in 2008, they settled for a bronze in 2012. In 2016, they returned empty-handed.

At the World Team Table Tennis Championships in 2010, they stunned China to win the title. In 2012, gold became silver and in 2014, silver became bronze. They failed to win a medal in 2016 and plunged to joint-ninth this year.

In April, they also lost the Commonwealth Games women's team gold to India, ending Singapore's streak of winning every women's team gold at the Games since the sport was introduced in 2002.

While current chief Lee is still keeping faith with her senior players, she also noted that it may be more realistic in the short term to strive for success at the SEA Games as the Republic's younger paddlers have yet to reach the standards of their seniors.

Referring to the likes of teenagers Koen Pang, 16, and Ethan Poh, 19, who surpassed expectations to finish fourth in the men's doubles at the Commonwealth Games, she said: "They're young, they have just come to the forefront and through (the international tournaments they have competed in) they have shown the potential.

"So long as we continue to provide them with opportunities and they train hard, I believe we can still win medals at whatever level (of competition) that we send them to."