KUALA LUMPUR • Playing on home soil at the ongoing World Team Table Tennis Championships, Malaysia's women, who boast several SEA Games medallists in their ranks, were expected to put up a good showing.
Instead, they were badly exposed, losing all six ties 0-3. With the exception of Ho Ying, who managed to win two games, all the players lost their matches in straight games at the Malawati Stadium.
The absymal performance has led to harsh criticism from local media, with The Star calling SEA Games silver medallist Ng Sock Khim "a letdown".
The men fared slightly better, with Shakirin Ibrahim hailed after notching the country's first win in the championship division when he beat Denmark's Claus Nielsen 3-1.
With Malaysia staging the SEA Games next year, and the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) placing an emphasis on sports that will earn the hosts medals, the women's results will be under scrutiny.
But yesterday, Ng called for some perspective, pointing to the fact that this is Malaysia's first time playing in the top division of the world team championships, by virtue of being hosts. They had previously competed in division two, and were the lowest-seeded teams this time.
She told The Sunday Times: "Of course we are disappointed. I understand Malaysians expect more from us since we are playing at home but the gap between us and the best teams is too big.
"I didn't play at my best. There was a bit of pressure because it was the biggest stage we've played on and I had a knee injury. But the rest of the team did well."
OCM secretary general Low Beng Choo backed the nation's paddlers.
She said: "They were up against the world's best teams and I'm sure they tried their level best. Hosting the world championships was part of the plan to expose our players to world-class competition.
"There's still a long period to go before the SEA Games. I'm sure they have their own training programmes and will be encouraged to work as hard as they can."
Low added that next year's table tennis competition will comprise four events - the men's and women's singles and team events, although more could be added depending on appeals.
Last year's SEA Games in Singapore had seven events, including the doubles and mixed doubles.
Besides the poor results, the competition was also plagued by poor attendances. The 13,000-seat venue was often half-filled at best, while players also complained of a draught caused by the air-conditioning in the main hall.
Low attributed these problems to the last-minute change in venue. The original venue, the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil, was closed for renovation work six months before the championships to spruce it up for next year's SEA Games.
She said: "Shah Alam is not as accessible by public transport. Unless you drive, it's quite inconvenient."
But she gave the assurance that the SEA Games table tennis competition would see an improvement. "It will be held at the OCM Arena, which is near the city centre," she said. "We expect more people and a better competition."