No Rio team event for men paddlers

Singapore paddler Gao Ning's world ranking dropped from No. 27 to No. 33 yesterday, causing Singapore's team Olympic ranking to take a hit too.
Singapore paddler Gao Ning's world ranking dropped from No. 27 to No. 33 yesterday, causing Singapore's team Olympic ranking to take a hit too.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Rather than get the boost they were hoping for, the national men's table tennis team's Olympic ranking slid further yesterday, a drop that meant Singapore's men will contest just the singles in Rio de Janeiro.

Ranked No. 13 by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) last month and one spot away from clinching qualification, the men's team slipped two rungs in the latest rankings to miss the cut-off.

The May rankings are used to allocate quota places for paddlers at August's Olympics.

This is the first time since the team event became part of the table tennis competition in 2008 that the Republic's men have failed to make the cut. A total of 16 slots were up for grabs, with at least one given to each of the six continents.

To earn one of the remaining berths - world No. 1 China and No. 2 Germany will fill the Asia and Europe quotas - Singapore needed to be ranked among the top 12.

The Olympic team rankings are based on the rating points of the three highest eligible players of each side. In Singapore's case, the trio were Gao Ning (No. 33), Li Hu (No. 54) and Chen Feng (No. 115).

The Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) had banked on Gao's semi-final run at the Asian Cup and Chen's showing at last month's Asian qualifier to provide the boost needed. While Chen's ranking rose from No. 149, Gao's took a tumble from No. 27. Both are pencilled in for the singles event.

Li was No. 51 last month.

When contacted yesterday, the STTA management withheld comment, stating that it would release a statement only after it has received confirmation from the ITTF. STTA president Ellen Lee could not be reached.

But given that the men's team were quarter-finalists at the last Olympics, the team's absence this time is expected to be viewed as a disappointment. Especially so, given that it was the women's team that went through a major shake-up after the 2012 Games.

Wang Yuegu and Li Jiawei, part of the side that won medals at two Olympics and the 2010 world title, retired following the London Games. Apart from the retirement of Zhan Jian due to injury last August, the make-up of the men's team has largely remained unchanged.

Even without Zhan, who is ineligible for world title events due to ITTF regulations for naturalised citizens, the men's team still posted top-eight finishes at the 2012 and 2014 world championships. They were among the top 24 this year.

Feng Tianwei will lead a women's side aiming to win a third straight medal in the team event.

Yu Mengyu, 26, is set to make her Olympic debut after making the cut for the singles event. Her inclusion allows Singapore to earn an additional athlete quota place to contest the women's team event.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2016, with the headline 'No Rio team event for men paddlers'. Print Edition | Subscribe