Despite world No. 3 Feng Tianwei leading the charge, the Singapore women's team failed to overcome their North Korean opponents in the fifth-to-eighth place play-off yesterday at the Asian Table Tennis Championships.
The trio of Feng, Wong Xin Ru and Zhang Wanling succumbed 2-3 to their rivals at the Wuxi Sports Centre Gym in China.
Both the Republic's points were won by Feng, who beat Cha Hyo Sim 12-10, 12-10, 13-11, and dominated Kim Song I 11-5, 11-5, 11-1.
"I think I won the first match because I'm more experienced than my opponent. The second match against Kim Song I, I think she's not in very good form today," said the 30-year-old, who said her matches went "quite well".
It was a different case for her far more inexperienced teammates, both of whom are 17-years-old.
Xin Ru lost 4-11, 4-11, 7-11 to Kim, and 5-11, 5-11, 4-11 to Cha, while Wanling fell 5-11, 6-11, 6-11 to Choe Hyon Hwa.
Despite the play-off loss, Singapore Table Tennis Association senior high performance manager Eddy Tay said it was a "great learning experience" for the youth players and will be a source of motivation for them to train harder.
This is especially the case for Xin Ru, as this was her debut in a major competition. "She showed no fear in her play," said Tay.
The result means the women's team will vie for seventh position in this afternoon's play-off against Thailand. If they win, it will be an improvement over their eighth-place finish at the last championships in Pattaya in 2015.
China emerged women's team champions by beating Japan 3-0, while Hong Kong and South Korea finished with a joint-bronze.
There is no let-up for Feng, who is playing for the Singapore side for the first time since she was excluded from the national team last October, as she will begin her singles competition tomorrow.
She will play either Qatar's Maha Faramarzi or Turkmenistan's Vilena Malseva in the round of 64.
"I'll just try to do my best for each and every match to come," said Feng, who will be aiming to match her bronze performance in 2015.
In the men's team event, Singapore emerged victorious over their North Korean counterparts 3-1.
Gao Ning led them with two points. He defeated Kang Wi Hun 11-6, 6-11, 11-7, 11-5, and Pak Sin Hyok 11-5, 12-10, 13-15, 8-11, 11-9.
Ethan Poh contributed a vital point against Choe Il, winning 11-4, 6-11, 11-6, 15-13, while Pang Xue Jie lost 11-9, 1-11, 5-11, 3-11 to Pak.
The team will compete against Hong Kong for fifth spot today.
China and South Korea meet in this afternoon's final. They both won their semi-finals 3-0 against Chinese Taipei and Japan respectively.
CHINA V SOUTH KOREA
Asian Championships: Men's team, champions division final
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