Table tennis: Feng's loss brings end to 20-year golden run

It was a competition that Singapore had dominated for 20 years, winning the SEA Games table tennis women's singles gold medal ever since Jing Junhong clinched it in Chiang Mai in 1995.

That streak came to a shocking end yesterday morning at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

World No. 4 Feng Tianwei, the overwhelming favourite for gold in the event, slumped to an 11-9, 10-12, 7-11, 9-11 upset loss to Thailand's Suthasini Sawettabut, ranked 107th in the world.

That loss meant the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist finished second in her opening round-robin Group C behind the Thai. Only the top-placed paddler advanced to the semi-finals and Suthasini edged out Malaysia's Ng Sock Khim 4-3 to win the gold.

A wave of disbelief and disappointment filled the Indoor Stadium, as a victorious Suthasini punched her fists triumphantly, silencing the previously boisterous crowd.

Feng's exit, coupled with Isabelle Li's similar second place in Group A, meant both Singapore women's singles paddlers failed to make the semi-finals.

It also meant that the Republic will not be able to complete the seven-gold sweep it targeted for this sport.

A disconsolate Feng said: "My performance was a little off today and I made too many mistakes which affected me a lot.

"My knee injury also affected me and I wasn't in good form for today's competition."

Her loss to a lower-ranked player is reminiscent of her shock quarter-final defeat by China's 832nd-ranked Mu Zi in last month's World Table Tennis Championships in Suzhou.

This defeat ends Singapore's long winning streak in the Games' women's singles event. Through the last 10 editions of the biennial regional meet, the Republic's world-class women paddlers - from Jing to Li Jiawei, Zhang Xueling, Wang Yuegu, Feng and Yu Mengyu - have won the gold.

Although disappointment was evident among the crowd, some fans like avid follower Goh Lih In still feel that not all hope is lost.

The 39-year-old said: "I'm disappointed since I came here today to see her. But I feel that losing is just part and parcel of sport.

"We have to accept the failure, learn from it and grow from there."

hosr@sph.com.sg

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