Category Archives: Foreign Sports Talents

Wang Yuegu is now Singapore’s No. 1 paddler – and deservedly so

The report:

This report appeared in today’s edition of The Straits Times:

Feng’s ranking drops; Wang now tops here

(The Straits Times, 06 April 2012)

SINGAPORE suffered a blow when the latest table tennis world rankings were released yesterday.

Feng Tianwei, 25, has slipped from being the fifth-ranked woman player in the world to No. 9, a result that almost certainly means that the Republic is no longer the No. 2 team in the world.

‘I was expecting my ranking to drop because of my losses at the World Team Championships, but I didn’t think it would be this much,’ she said yesterday.

She suffered four losses in Dortmund, Germany, late last month.

Wang Yuegu, now the highest-ranked Singaporean at No. 7, and Li Jiawei (No. 14) both rose a rung each, but Feng’s slip could have greater repercussions.

Singapore is likely to be overtaken by Japan for the No. 2 spot. This, despite the team clawing their way to a silver in Dortmund. Japan, the third seeds there, finished fifth.

A country’s team ranking is a good indicator of its Olympic seeding, which is based on the rankings of the three players who qualified for the Games, and their head-to-head records with the other qualifiers.

It is important for Singapore to be seeded second at the Olympics because it would mean avoiding favourites China until the team final.

But with just three months to go before the draw for the London Games is expected, a rankings slip could hit Singapore’s chances of retaining its women’s team silver.

The world team rankings were been released yesterday.

Feng and Co are now in a race to chalk up ranking points over the six International Table Tennis Federation Pro Tour events before the Olympics.

But the national captain remains confident of climbing back up the rungs, saying: ‘Rankings go up and down all the time. There is still time between now and the Olympics, and I will do everything I can to climb back up.

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My thoughts:

Although Feng Tianwei’s drop in the world rankings means possible trouble for Singapore as they seek to cling on to their silver medal at this July’s London Olympics, I can’t help but feel that Wang Yuegu’s elevation to to the status of top Singapore player is well-deserved.

Wang was undoubtedly Singapore’s top performer at the recent World Table Tennis Team Championships. After all, she was the one who saved the Republic twice from near-certain defeat by winning the all-important rubber matches against Germany in the quarter-finals, and against South Korea in the semis.

I also couldn’t help feeling a little proud as I read about how she, enraged by some of the officials’ decisions against her in the early stages of the tournament,  decided to let fly at them, and question their competence and professionalism.

Here’s one of her best quotes after one such incident:

“I don’t need to respect officials who have these kinds of standards. I want to tell European umpires: I’m not afraid of offending you – worse come to worst, I just won’t play.  I just hope that they improve their standards, and don’t keep thinking that they are superior.”

You see what I mean? It was really jaw-dropping stuff from Wang.

I remember subsequently reading with relish the daily reports of her verbal spats with the ITTF’s European  officials and umpires, and thinking that this was such a refreshing change from the vanilla image that the women’s table tennis team has always projected – one that, perhaps, is due to the tightly-controlled, well-crafted, well-rehearsed, and ultimately very ‘unhappening’  responses that they always seem to have for the media.

I don’t know why Wang is suddenly appearing to be so feisty. Maybe she has always been so, but we have not been made aware of it.

Or maybe it is because she is now happily married, is well aware that she is entering the twilight of her playing career, and as such, does not feel the need to show the same sort of restraint as her younger teammates.

Whatever the reason, she was a joy to watch, and read about at the World Championships.

Truly, she was the epitome of fighting spirit in the Singapore team, and this was one of the very few times that I actually felt a sense of pride as I watched a naturalised citizen in national colours.

And it is about time Wang became Singapore’s No. 1 too.

After all, she has always been playing the supporting role of the lowly bridesmaid to Li Jiawei and then to Feng, who have always been portrayed as the stars of the women’s squad.

I am sure Wang’s new ranking will not change things in the team. She is unlikely to be regarded as the team’s new leader. But at least she can still quietly savour her achievement.  And at least, her long-time, as well as new-found, supporters (like me) can also rejoice with her from afar.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

P/S: By the way, Wang has a fanpage on Facebook. You can check it out at  https://www.facebook.com/wangygfc

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Breaking news: Derek Wong gives Singapore sport a belated National Day present with Taufik triumph

This appeared in today’s Breaking News section of The Straits Times’ website:

Singapore shuttler Derek Wong upsets former world champ

(The Straits Times Online, 11 Aug 2011)

SINGAPORE shuttler Derek Wong created one of the biggest shocks at the World Badminton Championships on Wednesday, when he defeated former Olympic and world champion Taufik Hidayat in the second round.

The unheralded Wong, 22, beat the Indonesian star 21-17, 21-14 to earn a place in the third round on Thursday against Hans-Kristian Vittinghaus of Denmark.

The upset was an unwelcome 30th birthday present for the fourth-seeded Taufik, who fell to an opponent ranked only 49th in the world.

When asked about the defeat, he kept repeating: ‘I don’t know why, I don’t know why.’

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I just want to extend my heartiest congratulations to Derek Wong for his milestone win. Considering that Taufik is still in the top 10 of the world rankings (No. 4 for now)  and a losing finalist in last year’s World Championships, this is a terribly impressive and massive scalp.

It also brings back memories of Derek’s father’s famous scalps in the 1983 South-east Asia Games in Singapore. Wong Shoon Keat stunned Indonesia’s Icuk ‘The Iceman’ Sugiarto’ – the 1983 world champion – in the semi-finals of the men’s team competition. He also defeated another Indonesian Hastomo Arbi in the men’s singles final to win Singapre’s first-ever badminton gold at the biennial multi-sports regional Games.

Can 22-year-old Derek, who is ranked 49th in the world,  go on to do the same in this tournament? I don’t think so but it would be nice to think that he would be capable of following his father’s footsteps at the SEA Games one day.

For now, I am just going to savour a momentous achievement by a local sporting talent.

Singapore badminton – bursting at the seams with foreign recruits, no thanks to the Singapore Badminton Association’s lack of faith in local talents – has been really needing a result like this, by a local-born shuttler, for a long, long time. Far too long.

Well done, Derek!  (You can read another report of Derek’s scalp here)

Thank you for your wonderful birthday gift to the country. Majullah Singapura!

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

P/S: I’d taken a long break from blogging to re-evaluate some priorities in my life, and because my interest in Singapore sport was starting to wane. And actually, I am still on my break. But I just had to post this up after seeing it. Shows what Singapore sport can still stir up in me.

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The Sports School’s win in the National Schools Badminton C’ships is also a major victory for local budding talents

The report:

This report appeared in The Straits Times on 12 April:

Montfort’s reign ends (The Straits Times, 12 April 2011)

Sean wins decider to give sports school the edge in B boys’ final

By Lin Xinyi

THE Singapore Sports School (SSP) ended Montfort Secondary’s nine-year reign as Schools National B boys’ badminton champions yesterday.

It took the SSP just over three hours to earn what they had waited seven years for – their first B boys’ title.

And just as they had done when they defeated Montfort by the same 3-2 margin in the North Zone final, the sports school turned to Sean Lee with the scores in the Pilot Pen Cup tournament tied at 2-2.

Despite slipping to a 0-6 deficit against Montfort’s No. 1 Ricky Alverino Sidharta in a flash, Sean remained composed – even if the 17-year-old was not necessarily feeling that way.

‘Before the match started, I didn’t think that I would be able to beat him,’ said Sean. ‘I became more nervous after I got off to a bad start. But I kept the shuttlecock in play and persevered.’

Sean – described by the sports school’s general manager for badminton Desmond Tan as the team’s most mentally tough shuttler – fought back to triumph 21-14, 17-21, 21-7.

As Sean’s teammates mobbed him in celebration at the Jurong East Sports Hall, Montfort coach Wong Shoon Keat could only shake his head in disappointment. Despite boasting six foreign-born shuttlers – including China-born Chen Xiangteng, who joined from Maris Stella High after the zone finals in February – Montfort could not maintain their dominance.

Wong said the difference between the two teams was in the number of hours they spent in training. The SSP shuttlers train almost twice as much as their rivals, and their superior fitness told in the end, said the 1983 South-east Asia Games gold medallist.

But he vowed to get Montfort back to winning ways: ‘It’ll be even tougher for us to be champions next year, but we’ll fight even harder.’

The sports school’s Terry Hee, who defeated Vicky Rizky Pratama 21-11, 21-12 in the opening singles, believes his school are now the team to beat.

‘This shows that the zone title wasn’t a fluke and that SSP have the best team now,’ said the 16-year-old.

Their other win came in the second singles through Ngiam Bin, who beat Jerome Wong 21-14, 21-16.

That was sandwiched by two Montfort wins in doubles. Loh Kean Hean and Chen defeated Leslie Teng and Tan Zi Jian 15-21, 21-11, 21-15, while Yoshiko Alexander Sianipar and Bimo Adi Prakoso beat Moen Teo and Haafizh Mohd Noor 21-19, 21-15.

In the B girls’ final, the sports school went down 2-3 to Anglican High. The C boys’ and girls’ titles were won by defending champions Raffles Institution and Raffles Girls’ School.

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My thoughts:

I was delighted when  I read the above report and I think you can understand why.

It just goes to show, doesn’t it?

If you have a team of talented local-born athletes, and if they are willing to put in the hours and work hard, then there is really no reason why they cannot beat a team filled with scouted foreign-born players.

For many years, the Singapore Sports School has had to play second fiddle to Montfort Secondary in badminton, and one reason for that is the latter’s active  recruitment of foreign students to maintain its status as a powerhouse in schools badminton.

But now the Sports School has broken Montfort’s stranglehold on the national schools crown, despite Montfort’s efforts to further strengthen its team after the North Zone tournament by recruiting a China-born shuttler from Maris Stella (see above report).

And I am glad this win has taken place in a sport whose national governing body has also been shamefully over-reliant on foreign talent over the past decade.

Such is the Singapore Badminton Association’s poor regard for the ability of local shuttlers that they even disbanded one of their development squads – made up of locals – in January this year because they felt that these youngsters would never be as good as the foreign-born shuttlers in the national team (see previous report here).

Sadly, I don’t think this achievement by the Sports School will have any impact on the thinking of the people who run the SBA. Still, the win is a wonderful vindication of the abilities of our local-born shuttlers.

Great job, guys, and a big thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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