by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Can they repeat the bronze medal success; in fact can they climb one step higher?
Singapore with Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu, Li Ye and Zhou Yihan available for selection, all owners of ITTF World Tour titles, appear a step ahead of the field but what of Malaysia, the silver medallists four years ago?
In Glasgow, Beh Lee Wei, Ho Ying and Ng Sock Khim with Lee Rou You in support formed the backbone of the team; in Gold Coast only Ho Ying remains. She lines up alongside Beh Lee Fong, Sian Li and Karen Lyne, all players with minimal international exposure.
The major threat to Australian aspirations of a podium finish could well come from India; in the intervening period since Glasgow there has been notable progress. Manika Batra and Mouma Das, quarter-finalists in the Women’s Doubles event at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships in Düsseldorf, line up alongside Madhurika Patkar, Sutirtha Mukherjee and Pooja Sahasrabudhe.
All are players who have considerable international experience, familiar faces in the past four years on the ITTF World Tour.
There is depth to the team and perhaps that is the problem for other challengers.
England led by Tin-Tin Ho and Kelly Sibley are contenders, both were medallists in the Mixed Doubles event in Glasgow, silver for Tin-Tin Ho in partnership with Liam Pitchford; bronze for Kelly Sibley in harness with Danny Reed.
Kelly Sibley, 29 year old, will be making her fourth consecutive appearance in the multi-sport event, for Tin-Tin Ho, it is her second; England needs Maria Tsaptsinos, on debut, to come to the party. At the recent 2018 ITTF Team World Cup in London she was the consistent selection alongside Tin-Tin Ho and Kelly Sibley; Denise Payet who completes England’s line up in Gold Coast, was resigned to the bench.
It is a similar situation and perhaps more pronounced with regards to Canada; Zhang Mo is a player of note. Runner up last year in the ITTF Pan American Cup and in Glasgow, four years ago, a Women’s Doubles bronze medallist in partnership with Anqi Luo, she leads the line. However, the supporting cast with Alicia Cote and Justina Yeung completing the selection, both 18 years old, do not have the same level of experience. Notably at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, 15 years old at the time, Alicia Cote was the youngest athlete in any discipline.
A medal for the hosts; there is a further plus, the experience and the styles of Jian Fang Lay and Miao Miao. Pen-hold grip, long pimpled rubber, the close to the table blocking style of play causes adversaries nightmares; especially for those outside eastern Asia for whom the style is totally alien.
Meanwhile, shake-hands grips, short pimpled rubber on both sides of the racket, staying close to the table and attacking quickly, like that of Jian Fang Lay, is a style no longer promoted. It is quite unique in the modern era.
Different, it could be the key to Australian success; gold for Singapore but who will clinch silver? India or Australia with maybe England set to upset the party?