No specific medal target for Singapore’s table tennis team at Olympics, but expectations remain ‘high’: STTA
SINGAPORE: There is no specific medal target set for Singapore’s table tennis athletes at the upcoming Olympic Games, but expectations remain “high”, said Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) president Ellen Lee on Wednesday (Jun 23).
Speaking at a virtual press conference, Ms Lee said no “specific goals” have been set.
“I do not have specific goals for the team and I believe that the team will really do their best, because they have been waiting for a long time to go to the Olympics. And in the midst of this pandemic to be able to participate in the Olympics is already in itself an achievement,” said Ms Lee.
“Of course in sports, nothing is predictable and anything can and sure will happen, that’s the beauty of sports - the unpredictability of it all. Nonetheless, we have been training and looking forward to the Tokyo Olympics, we are glad that the time has come for us to rise to the occasion and we believe that everybody will rise to the occasion as well.”
In response to questions from CNA, Ms Lee noted that the unpredictability of the current COVID-19 situation means that it is “difficult” to be certain about what the team hopes to achieve.
“The situation itself does not allow us to be very certain about what we want to achieve. Because in such a fluid situation, I believe that the best defence and the best way to move forward is to be prepared for everything and anything that can come along, rather than to be very specified and very specific about what we wanted,” she explained.
Singapore women's team will come under "intense spotlight" and expectations of them are "high", Ms Lee said in her opening address at the press conference.
These expectations stem not only from the STTA, she noted.
“Everybody in Singapore who are interested in table tennis, including all our stakeholders are also having high expectations. Because so far for previous editions of the Olympics, table tennis has always been a regular sport … So it is natural to expect them to have high expectations of table tennis players as well,” Ms Lee explained.
“I am confident that despite the challenges ahead in facing the likes of opponents from China, Japan, Hong Kong and Korea, our players will go all out to face the challenges head-on, assisted by all our coaches. Our athletes will have to overcome all obstacles as they take on their best peers at the world’s stage," she added.
"POSITIVE AND REWARDING EXPERIENCE"
Singapore will be represented by Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu and Lin Ye in the women’s team event. Feng and Yu will also compete in the women’s singles event. Clarence Chew, who will feature in the men’s singles, will be the sole representative in the men’s competition.
Lin and Chew will be making their Games debuts. This will be Feng’s fourth Games and the second that Yu will feature in.
Chew noted that competing at the Games amid a pandemic would be a “positive and rewarding experience”, despite the concerns and uncertainty surrounding the event.
“Even now, there's a lot of concerns and uncertainty surrounding the Games. And we have more or less accepted the fact that it will be very different this time round,” he told media.
“But I think our main responsibility is to stay safe and to adhere to all the rules and measures being set up. Everyone wants the Games to be hosted smoothly, but I feel that regardless, this will be a very positive and rewarding experience for me.”
Lin noted that the pandemic has not made preparations easy, but added she hoped to win a medal at the Games.
"It has not been easy for everyone, and it also has not been easy for the association to help us get sparring partners. So I am very grateful to the association for bringing them in," she said.
In the 2016 edition of the Games, Singapore’s women paddlers finished without a medal. It was the first time in three Olympics that Singapore's women paddlers did not receive a medal.
Paddler Feng Tianwei finished fourth in the women’s singles in Rio, while the women’s team that comprised Feng, Yu Mengyu and Zhou Yihan narrowly missed out on a medal after a defeat in the bronze medal match to Japan.
“I have strong faith in our players. Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu are experienced players who have participated in previous Olympic Games. I believe that both of them would put their previous Olympics experience to their advantage at Tokyo,” noted Ms Lee.
In the latest ITTF world rankings, Feng, who is Singapore’s most bemedalled Olympian with a silver and two bronzes, is ranked 9th in the world, Yu is 47th, while Lin is 60th.
Singapore’s team will leave for Japan on Jun 27 for training prior to the Games, said Ms Lee.
“At this juncture, I would like to urge Singaporeans to believe in our athletes, and not just our paddlers, in that we can make waves at the world stage,” she said.
“A ‘whole of Singapore’ support for Team Singapore athletes at the Tokyo Olympics will send a very strong signal to our athletes that we are rallying behind them and rooting for them in deepest appreciation of all the sacrifices that they have made to win glory for our little red dot on the global stage.”
The Tokyo Olympics, originally scheduled to start in July last year, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.