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.
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