SINGAPORE - The Tan family celebrated a day of double joy as twins Zhao Ray and Zhao Yun, both 18 and from Hwa Chong Institution (HCI), led their respective A Division table tennis boys and girls teams to victories on Wednesday.
At the Pasir Ris sports hall, Hwa Chong’s boys ended their 19-year wait for gold with a tightly-contested 3-2 win against a Raffles Institution side that had claimed every title since 2005.
The girls’ team also prevailed against their Raffles counterparts, winning 4-1 to retain their championship. This meant HCI swept all four events – A Division boys and girls, B and C Division boys – they contested in for the first time in their history.
An euphoric Zhao Ray said: “We both wanted to win it together for the team. This is also a proud moment for our parents because they’ve been cheering us on during our matches. That helped me to calm my nerves and continue to focus.”
While his sister cruised to a 3-0 (11-2, 11-5, 11-1) win over RI’s Chloe Tan in the girls’ second singles match, Zhao Ray had to battle through a five-game thriller before defeating RI’s Xu Han 3-2 (9-11, 14-12, 9-11, 11-2, 11-8) in the opening singles game.
Having lost to the same opponent last year, Zhao Ray was determined not to let history repeat itself. He said: “My opponent Xu Han, he’s a very formidable opponent. We’ve been arch rivals since young, so being able to defeat him means a lot to me.
“Last year I lost to him in the final and we ended up losing 3-2 overall. I’m just glad that I contributed to the team to win the match.”
Zhao Yun, who employs the ‘chopper’ playing style, added: “We lost to them (RI) in the earlier round 4-1 but this time we were more mentally prepared to fight back and give it our all.
“After watching the SEA Games, I feel very inspired by our national players so I hope to get into the national team, maybe after my A Levels.”
Her teammate Cassandra Chew, who defeated RI’s Ho Ee Shann 3-0 (11-9, 13-11, 11-8) in the opening singles match, also drew inspiration from those representing Singapore.
The JC2 student’s brother is Clarence, who was part of the men’s team that won gold at the recent SEA Games in Cambodia. Cassandra said her brother sent her congratulatory messages following her win on Wednesday.
Her victory had put Hwa Chong 1-0 up before Raffles drew level as doubles pair Chan Lu Wen and Zennieve Tan beat HCI duo Germaine Koh and Heidi Wu 3-0 (11-6, 11-9, 11-5).
Zhao Yun then gave the defending champions the lead again before Faith Ng and Jamie Mak, in the second doubles match, beat Jade Ng and Zenia Lim in a nail-bitting 3-2 (11-9, 9-11, 14-16, 11-9, 12-10) clash for an unassailable 3-1 advantage.
The boys’ final was even more tense. Hwa Chong had won the first two matches but Raffles clawed back to make it 2-2. It was then left to HCI’s Dale Teyu and RI’s Zhao Jin Lang to decide the championship. Down 2-1, Dale eventually won 3-2 (9-11, 11-4, 6-11, 11-3, 11-4).
RI’s Xu Han, a JC2 student, said: “All good things have to come to an end. We cannot possibly keep the record for 100 plus years.
“Records are made to be broken, and I guess this was the year it happened. But I’m sure we’ll come back stronger next year and start a new streak again.”