SEA Games: Gao Ning claims Singapore's 4th table tennis title

Singapore's Gao Ning hits a return to Richard Gonzales of the Philippines during their men's singles table tennis finals match at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Singapore on June 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Singapore's Gao Ning hits a return to Richard Gonzales of the Philippines during their men's singles table tennis finals match at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Singapore on June 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Deafening cheers filled the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Thursday night as homeground favourite Gao Ning salvaged some pride for the hosts by claiming the table tennis men's singles gold medal.

He beat Filipino Richard Gonzales 11-6, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8, 11-3 in the final.

The victory got Singapore's gold quest back on track after the shock defeat of women's singles top seed Feng Tianwei in the morning. Feng's 11-9, 10-12, 7-11, 9-11, loss to Thai Suthasini Sawettabut in the group stage left Singapore with no more representatives in the women's singles and ensured that Team Singapore would not meet their target of sweeping all seven table tennis golds at stake.

The hosts now have four golds, with only the two team events to come.

Gao's victory also avenged Gonzales' defeat of his team-mate Clarence Chew in the semi-finals.

Gonzales beat Chew 11-4, 10-12, 8-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-4, 12-10.

The loud cheers from the crowd served as a motivation for Gao, who claimed his fourth singles gold.

He said: "We're (the paddlers) very touched by the Singaporeans' support for us, so we had to play our best.

"I prepared sufficiently before the competition and was expecting to play all seven sets. But I believe that my relaxed state and good mindset allowed me to win."

Gonzales may have been defeated by Gao, but the top table tennis player from the Philippines was still able to leave the stadium with his head held high.

"I train locally in Manila and rarely take part in international competitions," he said. "So being able to play with opponents who train and compete more frequently overseas and get a silver is a big accomplishment for me."

hosr@sph.com.sg