Hard work pays off for Singapore paddler Koen Pang

Left-hander Koen Pang (left) gets ready for a backhand return as Josh Chua watches in the junior boys' doubles final in Bangkok. Pang's coach Gao Ning is pleased with his progress.
Left-hander Koen Pang (left) gets ready for a backhand return as Josh Chua watches in the junior boys' doubles final in Bangkok. Pang's coach Gao Ning is pleased with his progress.PHOTO: SINGAPORE TABLE TENNIS ASSOCIATION

U-18 world No. 2 paddler earns three golds in regional event, knows he has some way to go

Despite losing in yesterday's junior boys' singles final of the South-east Asia Junior & Cadet Table Tennis Championships, there was plenty for Koen Pang to celebrate.

Not only did the national paddler capture three golds (mixed doubles, boys' doubles and boys' team) during the June 4-9 tournament in Bangkok, he has risen to world No. 2 in the Under-18 standings for June.

The table was released last week by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF). Russia's Lev Katsman heads the list.

It is the highest ranking a Singaporean has achieved since Chen Feng was ranked world No. 3 in July 2011 and December 2012.

Pang, 17, was ecstatic with his achievement. He told The Straits Times: "This just shows that the amount of hard work that we put in training is paying off.

"I have learnt that in order to improve myself as a player and as a person overall, I must be more mature when I am playing. I must be able to control my emotions well and be able to think clearly when I am under pressure."

There was plenty of evidence of such composure in Thailand as Pang competed in three key matches yesterday.

LOTS TO LEARN

I have learnt that I have to be confident in myself during my match and have to control my emotions well in order to become a world-class player.

KOEN PANG, on his recent exploits and what he needs to do better.

In the mixed doubles final, he and Goi Rui Xuan beat Thai duo Yanapong Panagitgun and Thapanee Pormma 3-1, before he partnered Josh Chua to take the junior boys' doubles title.

They beat the local pairing of Yanapong and Veerapat Puthikungkasem 3-0.

Pang, who on Thursday had captured the junior boys' team crown with Beh Kun Ting, Dominic Koh and Josh, ran out of steam against Wattanachai Samranvong in the boys' singles final.

Pang came back to level the match at 2-2 before losing 4-2 to his Thai rival.

Pang, who played doubles with Josh at the world championships in April and is aiming to representing Singapore at the year-end SEA Games in the Philippines, said: "I feel happy that I managed to get these results, but there is still more room for improvement.

"I have learnt that I have to be confident in myself during my match and have to control my emotions well in order to become a world-class player."

In last month's Thailand Junior & Cadet Open, an ITTF Junior Circuit Golden tournament, Pang finished joint-third in the junior boys' singles and second in the junior boys' team event, helping him jump from world No. 5 to his current No. 2 position.

Earlier this year, he clinched the junior boys' doubles gold and team bronze at the Czech Junior & Cadet Open, an ITTF Junior Circuit Premium tournament.

Singapore men's head coach Gao Ning was proud of the progress made by the Singapore Table Tennis Association's Youth Player of the Year.

He said: "Koen is a promising young athlete and he has shown vast improvement in the last two years. He takes his training seriously and has a great positive attitude.

"He needs to continuously improve on his footwork and attacking moves. In addition, he needs to gain more experience from major tournaments."


•Additional reporting by Xener Gill

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2019, with the headline 'Hard work pays off for Pang'. Print Edition | Subscribe