Singapore finally laid its hands tonight on the Olympic medal that it had been waiting to win for 48 years.
Our national women’s table tennis team had virtually assured itself of the silver medal at the very least when it defeated South Korea 3-2 in the semi-finals on Friday.
Tonight, after waiting for 48 hours, they finally won it.
As expected, our paddlers were beaten 0-3 by China in a 92-minute encounter but instead of tears, smiles of joy – and relief – in the Singapore camp when the final point was lost.
Feng Tianwei, the unexpected heroine against South Korea on Friday, put up a valiant fight against world No 5 Wang Nan and started off well, taking the first set 11-9. But steely Wang proved too strong in the end as she racked up 11-3, 11-6and 11-8 wins to take the first match.
Li Jiawei met her former Beijing Sports School teammate and long-time bogeywoman Zhang Yining in the next singles but could not reverse her 11-match losing streak against world No 1 Zhang.
Like Feng, she won the first set 11-9. But Zhang raised her game by a notch and ran out an easy 11-3, 11-4 and 11-7 winner in the next three games to give China a practically unassailable 2-0 lead.
Li and Wang Yuegu then took on Zhang and world No 2 Guo Yue in the doubles but no matter what they did, or how hard they tried, they could not prevent the inevitable and went down 8-11, 5-11, 6-11 in 23 minutes.
China’s victory means that it has won the first-ever table-tennis team gold at the Olympics.
Li, Wang and Feng received their silver medals from Ng Ser Miang, the International Olympic Council executive board member from Singapore, and chairman of Project 0812, the Singapore National Olympic Council-inititaed programme geared at fast-tracking Singapore athletes to win medals at both he 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
The trio have also now earned themselves $750,000 under the SNOC’s Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme. They will, in all likelihood, win the SNOC’s Team of the Year Award at next year’s Singapore Sports Awards too.