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Commonwealth Games: Singapore women lead table tennis medal charge

Published on Jul 30, 2014 6:41 AM
(From left) Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu, Lin Ye, Isabelle Li and Zhou Yihan of the Singapore women's team strikes gold at the Scotstoun Sports Campus in Glasgow, Scotland. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

GLASGOW (AFP) - The top 16 women in the Commonwealth Games table tennis singles competition will launch their quests for gold in Glasgow on Wednesday when they enter at the knockout stage.

The field is headed by the Singapore trio of Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu and Lin Ye, who won gold together in the team event, while Glasgow 2014 also sees the return of Chunli Li of New Zealand at the age of 52.

Unlike her younger rivals, Li - who last appeared at a Commonwealth Games in 2002 in Manchester - uses pimpled rubber surfaces on her bat, along with another veteran, 41-year-old Lay Jianfang of Australia.

"There are not many players in the world with my style," said Lay, who herself is competing in a fourth Commonwealth Games.

"That's the secret. Most of the players don't like my style. I'm a pen-holder and one side of the bat is normal rubber and one is long pimple."

Tuesday saw action in the men's and women's preliminary groups, a round-robin stage that has been designed to give players who are not used to the big stage some time in the spotlight.

Guyana's Christopher Franklin, who flew home after one win and one defeat, was one such competitor getting a rare taste of the limelight at the Scotstoun Sports Campus.

"I didn't have a good preparation in Guyana," he said.

"I work as a full-time account manager for a supermarket, and I couldn't get the time off work. I got two weeks for physical training, and one week on the table.

"Thankfully, my boss gave me enough time off to come to the Games, and I'll have a job when I go back, because I'm a good employee. But we get in on the fourth (of August) and I start working on the fifth. No rest for the wicked."

Botswana's Boitshwarelo Butale, who lost both of her matches, spoke of the difficulties she faces. "It's balance," she said. "I train once in a while because I stay 500km from the city, in Serowe in central Botswana. It's a five-hour drive to training and I only get to go on the weekends.

"I'm a teacher in Serowe and it's in the schools where they play. We have two boards and I play table tennis with the kids in the afternoons for one hour a day.

"It's a very low level. Away from the city, it's the only table tennis I have, and the kids love it so much."

Malaysian silver medallists in the team event Ng Sock Khim and Ho Ying both won through to the knockout stage, although the former picked up a knee injury.

England's Tin-Tin was another notable progressor.

The men's doubles - where India's Sharath Kamal Achanta will look to retain his Commonwealth title with new partner Amalraj Anthony Arputhara - and mixed doubles events will also get under way on Wednesday.