PHNOM PENH – Singapore are one win away from becoming South-east Asia’s table tennis kings again, after they beat defending champions Thailand 3-0 in the men’s team semi-final on Wednesday (May 10).
They will face Malaysia, who beat 2017 champions Vietnam 3-2, in Thursday’s final for a chance to reclaim the gold they last won on home soil in 2015.
At the Morodok Techo National Stadium Table Tennis Hall, Koen Pang, Clarence Chew and Izaac Quek won their matches in contrasting fashion.
In a battle of left-handers, Chew had to recover from losing the first game against Padasak Tanviriyavechakul before prevailing 3-1 (8-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-4).
Pang then held his nerve in the close encounters in each game to sweep Sarayut Tancharoen 3-0 (12-10, 11-9, 11-9).
Quek was then awarded a walkover, when Phakpoom Sanguansin could not take to the table after succumbing to an allergy.
Pang, the men’s singles champion in 2019, said: “It feels amazing to beat Thailand and get into the final because we lost to them in last year’s semi-final.
“We have been training very hard for this and our game is at a higher level compared to last year. We are more prepared and today, we played very confidently and aggressively.”
National men’s team coach Gao Ning added: “Our players performed well today. We knew it was going to be a tough match between two teams of a similar standard. There were some nerves, but we got the job done.
“If we want to get back the gold medal, we need to prepare well tactically and technically, and be ready to make adjustments in tough situations. As long as we show our fighting spirit and play without inhibitions, we will be fine.”
While the men’s team have a final to look forward to, there was disappointment for the women after they lost 3-0 to defending champions Thailand in their semi-final to finish joint-third with Vietnam.
Their bronze-medal fate was virtually sealed on Tuesday when they lost a group match to Malaysia and had to take on the formidable Thais in the last four.
In the semi-finals, Zhou Jingyi managed to take a game off 2015 women’s singles champion Suthasini Sawettabut before losing 3-1 (11-9, 7-11, 11-5, 11-4).
Zeng Jian then fell 3-1 (11-8, 5-11, 11-9, 11-8) to defending women’s singles champion Orawan Paranang before Jinnipa Sawettabut beat Goi Rui Xuan 3-0 (11-6, 11-9, 11-6), as the Thais set up a final against Malaysia.
The national women’s team last finished outside the top two in 1997, after which they went on a nine-gold streak before settling for silver in 2022.
National women’s team coach Jing Junhong said: “We saw the disparity between ourselves and Thailand. We can challenge them, but our levels are not up to theirs yet. Besides Thailand, who are clearly the best team in the region now, we are on the same level as Malaysia and Vietnam. And when we drop the ball in any aspect, we may lose the entire match, like what happened against Malaysia.
“We fought against Thailand but they are a very strong and balanced squad. Since beating us in the final last year, they have grown in confidence.
“Fighting spirit alone can only carry you that far without a solid technical foundation, so there’s a lot of work to be done in that regard. I hope we can reflect on our team event performance, see where we can improve, start from zero and work our way up in the individual events and many other competitions ahead.”