What it takes to qualify for the Olympics

Yu Mengyu (left) and Zhou Yihan of Singapore in action against Korea during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games table tennis women's team quarter-final at Riocentro Pavilion 3 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Aug 13, 2016.
Yu Mengyu (left) and Zhou Yihan of Singapore in action against Korea during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games table tennis women's team quarter-final at Riocentro Pavilion 3 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Aug 13, 2016. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

To earn a spot in the singles event, Singapore paddlers took part in the Asian continental qualifiers, which was divided into the regional and continental-wide stage.

The winner of each of the five regional stages earned a spot - as Feng Tianwei did this year - while the rest got a second bite at the continental-wide stage. This round was harder, with world powerhouses like China, Japan and South Korea in the mix.

Those who failed to qualify through this stage could still do so if their world ranking was high enough. Yu Mengyu, ranked No. 17 in May, which was the window set by the International Table Tennis Federation for the 2016 Olympics, secured her ticket to Brazil.

Singapore were able to send a third player, then world No. 50 Zhou Yihan, for the team event as the Republic's women's team had sufficient rating points to be ranked fourth overall and qualify for Rio. Essentially, the world ranking of a team's third player must be high enough to ensure the country's position in the standings was good enough to earn one of the 16 limited slots.

These are the positions of the lowest-ranked player to qualify on merit in the women's team event over the last three Games:

•Rio 2016: Natalia Partyka (Poland, 27 years old), No. 74

•London 2012: Katarzyna Grzybowska (Poland, 23), No. 121

•Beijing 2008: Iulia Necula (Romania, 22), No. 206

Zhou was picked for Rio ahead of team-mate and world No. 76 Lin Ye (ranking in May), also a naturalised player. The highest-ranked local-born active player to follow the China-born players was Yee Herng Hwee, who was ranked No. 378 then.

May Chen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2016, with the headline 'What it takes to qualify for the Olympics'. Print Edition | Subscribe