No team medal in Rio, no surprise, says Jiawei

Li Jiawei was not surprised about Singapore's showing at last year's Rio Olympics, where the Republic's women's table tennis team returned empty-handed for the first time in three editions.

The former national paddler won a team silver with Wang Yuegu and Feng Tianwei at the 2008 Beijing Games and a bronze in London four years later.

After Li and Wang's retirements, Feng led the Republic's charge in Rio with Yu Mengyu, 27, and Zhou Yihan, 23. However, they failed to win a medal, falling to China in the semi-finals before losing to Japan in the bronze-medal match.

Of the barren campaign, Li, a three-time Olympian, said: "It's no surprise, I think it's expected."

She noted that there is a gulf in standards between the old guard and the new-look trio.

The 36-year-old said: "The three of us (Feng, Wang and Li), our standards are different from the present team. It's on two different planes. Tianwei was leading two newer players, and the average level of that team cannot be compared to ours."

In 2008, Li, Wang and Feng were all ranked inside the world's top 10. In London, they were in the top 15.

In Rio, then-world No. 4 captain Feng teamed up with Yu and Zhou, who were ranked 13th and 32nd respectively. While Li does not rule out Yu and Zhou's ability to eventually match - or surpass - their predecessors, she noted that winning an Olympic medal could be elusive.

She feels they should be grateful for the improved training environment and facilities, adding: "They can be better, they've just got to keep working hard. Not everyone can reach a certain high level of standard. But if you don't work hard, you will surely fail."

She admitted that she missed competing after retiring in 2012, saying: "Sometimes, I am envious of the younger ones who are able to compete. Now that I'm older, I feel that it's important to cherish those moments."

Alvin Chia

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2017, with the headline 'No team medal in Rio, no surprise, says Jiawei'. Print Edition | Subscribe