Schooling keeps the spirits up in Rio

Table tennis team fail to win a birthday present for S'pore; Ser remains another medal hopeful

Joseph Schooling competes during the 2016 Rio Olympics on Aug 9. PHOTO: REUTERS

As the nation toasted 51 years of progress back home, Singapore athletes competing in the Olympics halfway across the world also wanted to celebrate how far their small nation has come in the world of sport.

But despite a fine Rio debut by swimmer Joseph Schooling - who clocked a new national record of 48.27 seconds in the men's 100m freestyle, en route to earning himself a place in the semi-finals - there was little else to cheer.

On a day when the table tennis team could have given Singapore a perfect birthday present by securing at least a bronze medal in the women's singles event, both Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu fell short. World No. 4 Feng, the second seed in the tournament, was stunned 0-4 (12-14, 8-11, 7-11, 5-11) by Japan's Ai Fukuhara. Yu's defeat came at the hands of North Korean Kim Song I who prevailed 4-2 (8-11, 11-6, 5-11, 6-11, 11-9, 6-11).

Had both Singaporeans won the quarter-final matches, they would have progressed to the final four and ensured at least a bronze.

Said a teary Yu after her loss: "We really had hoped to win a medal for Singapore for a great way to celebrate (National Day). Regrettably, we weren't able to do it."

Table tennis delivered two bronzes (singles and team) at the 2012 Olympics. But it can now only hope for success in the team event.

If Team Singapore are to match the 2012 feat, it will need other hopefuls like Schooling and shooter Jasmine Ser to deliver.

Schooling's fine form in the 100m free bodes well for a good showing in his pet 100m butterfly on Thursday afternoon (Brazil time) - he won a bronze at last year's world championships in this event.

Ser, who will also be in action on Thursday in the 50m three positions, is an outside bet for a medal.

Rower Saiyidah Aisyah had reason to cheer even though she missed out on a chance to make the semi-finals. Needing to finish in the top three in the single sculls, she could manage only sixth in a time of 7min 56sec. She will now take part in the repechage rounds hoping to continue her creditable performances.

The 28-year-old is the first Singaporean rower to qualify for the quadrennial Games, and had progressed through the heats in the 2,000m race to be a surprise quarter-finalist.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2016, with the headline Schooling keeps the spirits up in Rio. Subscribe