Table Tennis: Paddlers honoured at STTA annual awards; Feng Tianwei missing from line-up

Singapore Table Tennis Association awardees (from left) Pang Xue Jie, Zhou Yihan, Gao Ning, Clarence Chew, Lin Ye and Zeng Jian.
Singapore Table Tennis Association awardees (from left) Pang Xue Jie, Zhou Yihan, Gao Ning, Clarence Chew, Lin Ye and Zeng Jian. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) honoured its top paddlers over the past season at the annual Keppel-STTA Awards, in an awards ceremony where Singapore's top performing player of the last year was conspicuously missing.

A total of 11 awards were given to athletes and coaches with "standout performances" as well as those "who have demonstrated commendable character traits".

But instead of top accolades like "Player of the Year", the association's top award this year was the Role Model Award given to veteran paddler Gao Ning. There was also no more Coach of the Year award.

World No. 50 Gao was described as "everything you hope for in an athlete - humble and hardworking". The citation also said: "He is a great individual, not just on the playing field, but off it as well. He always put in more time and more work than other guys."

Women's player Zhou Yihan was given the Outstanding Performance at the Rio Olympics Award for a creditable debut at the Rio Games last August.

Pang Xue Jie was given a Special Award for his defeat of then-world No. 14 Koki Niwa of Japan at the World Team Table Tennis Championships.

Zeng Jian, who won the Under-21 singles titles at the China, Japan and Qatar stops, was given the Achiever Award.

World No. 4 Feng Tianwei, arguably the Republic's top paddler last season, was not present at the awards ceremony at Hotel Miramar. The 30-year-old had been axed from the national team last October by the association, which had cited her age as a reason she no longer fit into its rejuvenation plans.

While Feng failed to retain her singles bronze at the Rio Olympics, and the women's team also returned empty-handed, she won a bronze at the prestigious Asian Cup, as well as the Women's World Cup. Feng also won the Slovenian Open last year.

She was the Sportswoman of the Year last year, and had been named the STTA's Player of the Year five previous times.