by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
The move is part of an overall plan to rejuvenate the fortunes of Singapore who departed the recent Rio 2016 Olympic Games without a medal in their possession.
“Feng Tianwei has been a cornerstone of the national team since 2007. She has brought many golden moments to the sport. We would like to thank her for all that she has done for Singapore table tennis, and we would like to take this opportunity to wish Tianwei all the best in her future endeavours” Ellen Lee, President Singapore Table Tennis Association
Singapore is very much focused on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games; Feng Tianwei will be 34 years old when the world meets in the Japanese capital city.
Equally but not as drastic, there is an envisaged change of status for Gao Ning, like Feng Tianwei a stalwart member of the Singaporean team for the past decade. Now 34 years old, he will combine playing with coaching; he will assume the role as the men’s assistant being the understudy to Liu Jiayi, the current Men’s Team National Coach.
It is anticipated the Gao Ning will retire from playing after the 2018 Asian Games.
“This is a great opportunity which has been given to me by the STTA. I have always wanted to contribute back as a coach after my playing days are over. I am happy that I am given a chance, and will work hard and learn as much as I can from Coach Liu. It is my hope to help as many young Singaporean players fulfil their potential and win medals for Singapore.” Gao Ning
The spotlight in the Men’s Team now turns to 20 year old Clarence Chew who is currently combining academic study with an intense training schedule.
Clearly the goal is for Clarence Chew alongside 22 year old Chen Feng, who competed in Rio de Janeiro and was the runner up in the Under 21 Men’s Singles event at the 2011 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, is to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Notably the contract of Li Hu, the winner of the Boys’ Singles event when in the colours of China, has also been terminated.
“I’m deeply appreciative of the opportunity to be able to train and study full-time and I will dedicate myself to doing my best and making our nation proud. It is any athlete’s dream to represent the country at the Olympics. I will continue to train hard and work towards my goal of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and would love to have Singaporeans stand by us as we take the next step forward” Clarence Chew
The focus is clearly on youth; the future of 27 year old Yu Mengyu is also being monitored closely.
It means that for the Women’s Team, the Zhou Yihan, Lin Ye and Zeng Jian will form the basis of selection.
Zhou Yihan is 22 years, both Lin Ye and Zeng Jian are 20 years of age.
“After the Rio Olympics, it is indeed timely for STTA to develop, rejuvenate and refresh our teams to be future ready. Bold moves are needed if we are interested in challenging the top table tennis nations for honours. With competition becoming a lot keener, and with rivals like Japan catching up with Singapore, winning at the world stage has become a lot harder. We need to develop and rejuvenate our national teams to be future ready, and we need to place greater emphasis on the development of our youth players.” Ellen Lee, President Singapore Table Tennis Association
Attention on youth and on developing home grown players, somewhat in the policy of Hong Kong in recent years. Currently, the STTA has a network of educational partners: Nanyang Technological University, Beijing Sports University, SIM University (UniSIM) and University of Liverpool that provides special admission or scholarships to high potential athletes in our national team.
Also, the STTA will be initiating a Bursary scheme in 2017 for needy families whose child is in our youth development programmes: Junior Development Squad, Youth Training Squad, School within School and Intermediate Squad. The objective of this scheme is to support a child’s aspirations if the parents may not have the means to support the child’s training and competitions.
“With our strategy plans in place, we strongly believe that our younger generation of players will lead Singapore to greater sporting achievements, with the aim of scoring a medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. We also hope to field a local-born talent to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. We urge Singaporeans who have put their belief and trust in us to continue to support us.” Ellen Lee, President Singapore Table Tennis Association
Additionally, the STTA will continue to work closely with our stakeholders including the Singapore Sports School, Sport Singapore, the education fraternity, the athletes and their parents to provide high potential athletes with the best support in their pursuit of sporting excellence and nurture a new generation of accomplished athletes to join the national team.