The player to whom Singapore looks; without doubt it is Feng Tianwei, not only when the Olympic Games is considered but when gaining a place in the prestigious quadrennial event is the topic in question.
At the 2020 World Team Qualification tournament staged in Gondomar, Portugal from Wednesday 22nd to Sunday 26th January, she was the captain of the ship, she steered Singapore through choppy waters.
Lining up alongside Lin Ye and Yu Mengyu, she accounted for Tessy Gonderinger and Yu Mengyu in a 3-1 win against Luxembourg.
A most valuable performance, it was the same in opposition to the Netherlands, the contest that decided a Tokyo place; a 3-2 margin of victory was the outcome. Feng Tianwei beat Britt Eerland before in the last match of the fixture overcoming Li Jiao to seal the passport to Japan’s capital city.
Booking a place, it has been the same when gaining a medal; Feng Tianwei has always been the pivotal player.
On debut at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, it was her efforts in particular that secured silver in the women’s team event. Joining forces with Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu, at the semi-final stage against Korea Republic, in a 3-2 overall win, she accounted for Dang Yeoseo, before in the concluding fifth match of the engagement, overcoming Kim Kyungah to send Singaporean supporters into sheer delirium.
Additionally, in Beijing, Feng Tianwei impressed in the women’s singles event, the champion elect, China’s Zhang Yining ending aspirations.
Silver in China’s capital city, four years later in London it was bronze followed by bronze. Once again in the women’s singles it was defeat at Chinese hands, at the semi-final stage she lost to Ding Ning, before in the third place contest overcoming Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa.
Hopes for a Beijing team repeat, it was not to be the outcome; a 3-0 defeat at the semi-final stage against a most spirited Japanese outfit was for Singapore a major disappointment. However, to their credit, they recovered and posted a 3-0 win against the Korea Republic to secure bronze; Feng Tianwei gave the Korea Republic the ideal start, she beat Kim Kyungah. Memories of four years earlier flooded back.
Alas, in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, for the first time in her career there was no medal for Feng Tianwei; Japan proved the nemesis. In the women’s singles she experienced a quarter-final defeat at the hands of Ai Fukuhara; alongside Yu Mengyu and Zhou Yihan, it was a 3-1 reverse in the bronze medal contest. Feng Tianwei lost to both a Kasumi Ishikawa and Mima Ito.
A sign of the times; Singapore had maintained their level; Japan had made major progress.
Now in 2021, can Feng Tianwei revitalize Singapore? Moreover, could Tokyo be her swansong? On Tuesday 31st August she will celebrate her 35th birthday, most importantly could a present be a medal?
Editor: Ian Marshall