Reasons to celebrate, Singaporean anniversary.
Formed 90 years ago but hampered by the events of World War Two, eventually when peace resumed, the Singapore Table Tennis Association became members of the International Table Tennis Federation in 1947.
Competition returning to the scene; Singapore was very much at the helm of promoting events. Under the auspices of the Table Tennis Federation of Asia, replaced in 1972 by the Asian Table Tennis Union, in 1952 the city state hosted the first ever Asian Championships. Later they organized the tournament in both 1954 and 1967.
Notably, competing on home soil, Singapore enjoyed success; in 1954 Loh Heng Chew and Poon Weng Hoe won the men’s doubles. To this date the only title ever won by Singapore at an Asian Championships.
An impact over six decades ago but it is in more recent times at the Olympic Games when the Singapore Table Tennis Association has made the greatest impact.
Overall, they have secured five medals at the quadrennial event; the first was in weightlifting in 1960 in Rome when Tan Howe Liang claimed silver in the lightweight division. More recently at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Joseph Schooling won gold in aquatics, he won the men’s 100 metres butterfly.
Otherwise, the remaining three medals have been won by table tennis; the most successful sport of all!
At the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Jing Jun Hong came close, she was beaten by Chinese Taipei’s Chen Jing in the bronze medal contest; four years later in Athens, the same fate befell Li Jiawei, she lost to Korea Republic’s Kim Kyungah.
So near yet so far; in 2008 represented by Feng Tianwei, Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu, silver was secured in the women’s team event, the 48 year drought had ended!
Fast forward to London 2012, with the same three players on duty in was women’s team bronze and for Feng Tianwei, with victory over Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa, the same colour in the women’s singles event. Thus, for the first time in 52 years, Singapore had won an individual medal at an Olympic Games.
Memorable results but the most memorable of all arose at the Liebherr 2010 World Team Championships in Moscow, when Singapore recorded a 3-1 win in the final against the Chinese trio comprising Ding Ning, Guo Yan and Liu Shiwen. Remarkable but even more remarkable was the fact that Li Jiawei, the backbone of the Beijing success did not play in the final. She was recovering from giving birth, Sun Beibei was the replacement.
An incredible effort by Feng Tianwei beating Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen was the mainstay of success, the Singaporean spearhead in modern times. Amongst her many achievements she won the women’s singles title at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in 2010 in Seoul, the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010 and Glasgow in 2014, before securing the Asian Cup in 2015 in Jaipur. In addition, she has nine ITTF World Tour women’s singles titles to her name.
Meanwhile for the men, Gao Ning has very much set the modern day standard. Most recently, he claimed the top step of the men’s singles podium at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, having earlier gained three men’s doubles titles at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals. He partnered Yang Zi to gold in 2008 in Macao, before joining forces with Li Hu, achieving success in 2012 in Hangzhou and the following year in Dubai.
Success on the international stage but there is much more to Singapore; they have a very active domestic programme, local tournaments are full to the brim. the annual Crocodile Challenge attracts hundreds of young players.
An active association, without doubt, it is a fact underlined by Yu Mengyu. She has played more matches than any other female player on the ITTF World Tour; played 697, won 417, lost 280!
The figures sum up Singapore, here’s to the next 90 years.
Editor: Ian Marshall