Isabelle Li may not have won the girls singles gold tonight but I am proud of her. I think the gulf in standards between her and Gu Yuting showed but I also feel that Isabelle has gone beyond expectations in reaching the final.
Remember: although she was Singapore’s best hope of a table tennis medal at the Youth Olympic Games, she was only seeded seventh in the singles tournament. Which means that she was expected to make the quarter-finals at the very least. Anything other than that would be a bonus.
Gu was just too strong for Isabelle but it was stirring to see the 15-year-old Singapore Sports School student going all out especially in the decider despite starring at an almost unassailable 0-3 deficit.
My heartiest congratulations to Isabelle. I think your silver is worth its weight in gold.
Here’s the report of the match from The Straits Times website.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan
It’s a silver for Isabelle
(The Straits Times Online, 23 Aug 2010)
By Gerard Wong
ISABELLE Li’s dream run in the Youth Olympic Games table tennis girls singles competition ended with a silver medal on Monday evening when she lost 0-4 to China’s Gu Yuting in the final at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
The 15-year-old Singapore Sports School student, who swept Thailand’s Suthasini Sawettabut 4-0 in Monday morning’s semi-finals and shed tears as she became an improbable finalist, gave her all against the top-seeded Gu. However, the difference in standards was clear for all to see.
Isabelle may have frustrated her previous opponents with her defensive style of play but Gu, who beat South Korea’s Yang Han Eun 4-1 in her semi-final, overcame that with her aggression, speed and accurate smashes. The World Under-15 No. 1, who won the doubles and mixed doubles titles at the 2009 World Junior Championships, raced to a 2-0 lead within 14 minutes after beating Isabelle 11-9 and 11-5 in the first two sets.
Isabelle, who turns 16 on Saturday, gave the partisan crowd something to cheer about when she raced to a 4-1 and then a 5-2 lead in the third set. But the plucky teenager could only watch on helplessly as Gu bounced back to tie the match at 7-7 before winning 11-8 to rack up an almost unassailable 3-0 lead.
In the deciding set, Isabelle went for broke and adopted a more attacking style. The tactic worked initially to the delight of her supporters as she led 3-0 and 5-2. Then, in a repeat of the third set, Gu took over, turned the tables and sped off to a 7-10 lead. Isabelle clawed her way back to 9-10 but Gu eventually prevailed to win 11-9.
Despite the defeat, the crowd applauded Isabelle for her spirited display and for winning Singapore’s second silver of the YOG. The teenager will now pair up with Clarence Chew for the Mixed Team event which begins on Tuesday. Singapore will kick off their group stage campaign with three matches – against Intercontinental 2, Egypt and Africa 1.