Commonwealth Games 2018: Gold Coast, April 4-15

Commonwealth Games: Veteran paddler Gao Ning's last burst of golds

Gao Ning of Singapore in action against Nigeria's Quadri Aruna (not pictured) yesterday at the Commonwealth Games. He finally won his first men's singles gold medal after beating his opponent 4-2. Singapore's table tennis team ended the Games with th
Gao Ning of Singapore in action against Nigeria's Quadri Aruna (not pictured) yesterday at the Commonwealth Games. He finally won his first men's singles gold medal after beating his opponent 4-2. Singapore's table tennis team ended the Games with three golds, two silvers and a bronze.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Gao Ning of Singapore in action against Nigeria's Quadri Aruna (not pictured) yesterday at the Commonwealth Games. He finally won his first men's singles gold medal after beating his opponent 4-2. Singapore's table tennis team ended the Games with th
Lim Say Heng

Wounded veteran fights till the end to claim singles crown, mixed doubles title with Yu

He was all patched up, with a palm-sized, white-coloured kinesiology tape on his left thigh and a familiar red band protecting his left knee.

While his movement was limited by age, fatigue and an injury suffered earlier in the competition, Gao Ning still found sufficient fuel and fire within himself to claim two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games yesterday.

The 35-year-old won the men's singles and mixed doubles - with Yu Mengyu - as the Republic's table tennis team ended their campaign in the quadrennial affair with three golds, two silvers and a bronze.

Gao is six years older than Quadri Aruna and ranked 21 places below the Nigerian but, in the final, he showed that such statistics count for nought, romping to a 2-0 lead (11-7, 11-8) at the Oxenford Studios.

"I had to increase my speed against him. If I had been slow, I would have been in trouble, especially when I was counter-attacking on the backhand," Gao told The Straits Times.

Aruna then pulled the tie level, taking the next two games 11-5, 11-3.

Singapore's double gold medallists Gao Ning and Yu Mengyu with their medals after the end of the Commonwealth Games table tennis competition yesterday. Gao, 35, won the men's singles title and combined with Yu to take the mixed doubles gold. Yu, 28,
Golden moment for Team Singapore: Singapore's double gold medallists Gao Ning and Yu Mengyu with their medals after the end of the Commonwealth Games table tennis competition yesterday. Gao, 35, won the men's singles title and combined with Yu to take the mixed doubles gold. Yu, 28, had earlier won the women's doubles with Feng Tianwei. Their haul took the Singapore contingent's medal tally to five golds, two silvers and two bronzes, compared with 2014's haul of eight golds, five silvers and four bronzes. The Games came to a close last night, with hosts Australia the top nation with 80 golds. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

TURNING POINT

The fifth game couldn't have been more crucial for me; if I had lost that game for 2-3, the tone of the match could have been different.

GAO NING, on the moment in the game which gave him confidence to seal the win.

But the Singaporean remained calm, even when he trailed 8-9 in the fifth game. He explained: "Leading or trailing is very normal in a match - having the lead does not guarantee victory, while trailing does not always mean defeat."

He then rallied to take three straight points to win 11-9, and the following game 11-5 for the victory.

Aruna said: "At two games all, I thought I had a good chance, but losing the fifth game 11-9 was the turning point."

Gao agreed, and said: "The fifth game couldn't have been more crucial for me; if I had lost that game for 2-3, the tone of the match could have been different.

"I am happy to win the men's singles title, even though I have won the men's doubles, team and the mixed doubles titles before."

The singles is the one title to have eluded Gao, who finished second to team-mates Yang Zi and Zhan Jian in 2010 and 2014 respectively.

Men's national coach Liu Jiayi added: "Today his mental game was very strong... the main thing was that he really wanted to win."

Earlier yesterday, Gao and Yu beat England's Liam Pitchford and Ho Tin-Tin 12-10, 12-10, 11-9 in the mixed doubles final. The Singaporean duo trailed in both the first and second games, even facing game point at 9-10 in both, but battled back to win them.

Yu, 28, said: "It was my first time pairing with Gao Ning in the mixed doubles, and we were more focused on this event because we wanted to take back the gold that we lost in 2014 (in Glasgow)."

England dominated the podium in this event at the 2014 Games, preventing a Singapore sweep of all seven medals.

Gao and Yu, who also won the women's doubles gold with Feng Tianwei, were the table tennis team's top performers in a largely disappointing Games campaign.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 16, 2018, with the headline 'Gao's last burst of golds'. Print Edition | Subscribe