SINGAPORE - Table tennis player Yu Mengyu may have missed out on the bronze medal after losing 4-1 (11-6, 8-11, 7-11, 7-11, 6-11) to Japan's world No. 2 Mima Ito in the bronze-medal play-off on Thursday (July 29), but her gritty display at the Tokyo Olympics has earned her plaudits.
It was the furthest she had ever reached at an Olympics, and the world No. 47 stunned higher-ranked players, including Taiwan's world No. 8 Cheng I-Ching (4-0) and Japan's world No. 10 Kasumi Ishikawa (4-1), along the way.
Yu was the only player among the semi-finalists not ranked among the world's top four. The gold went to world No. 1 Chen Meng of China, the silver to her compatriot, world No. 3 Sun Yingsha.
And Yu carried out her impressive run while nursing an injury in her left thigh, which she pulled in her first match of the competition last Sunday in her 4-0 victory over Portugal's Shao Jieni.
During her semi-final against Chen on Thursday, Yu had called for an injury time-out and received medical attention, but eventually completed the match, which ended 4-0 to Chen.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong, who was watching from the stands, wrote on Facebook: "Remember that she... got to this position... only because she has risen to the occasion, and surpassed any expectations of her.
"It's a missed opportunity at an Olympic individual medal, and that will rankle for some time to come. But we remain proud, not only of how far Mengyu has gone at these Olympics, but especially because she didn't give up; she pressed on, made a good fist of it and gave it her all and competed well, even if her all fell short because her opponents were better."
Singapore Table Tennis Association president Ellen Lee said: "Mengyu has worked very hard and has made the most of this amazing opportunity. She made an incredible journey.
"Tonight, it was not an easy feat to take on Ito, and Yu displayed great grit and fighting spirit. Yu did Singapore proud and we have no regrets."
She added that the player is now recovering from her injuries and is "looking forward" to joining teammates Feng Tianwei and Lin Ye for the women's team event, which begins on Monday against France.
In a Facebook post, Singapore National Olympic Council president Tan Chuan-Jin hailed Yu's outing at the Tokyo Games as a "glorious one" and praised her tenacity.
Mr Tan, who is also Speaker of Parliament, said: "She has captured our imagination with her verve and fighting spirit.
"Mengyu lost 1-4 to Ito and put up a good fight. We thank you for flying our flag high not just as one of our flag bearers but as one of our warriors on the courts. Jiayou Mengyu! Now for the team event with Tian Wei and Lin Ye!"
Many others also voiced their support for Yu on social media.
Commenting on The Straits Times' Facebook account, Ganesh Radhakrishnan, recalling the player's struggles with long-term back issues, wrote: "Fantastic effort with a dodgy back... to fight the way Mengyu did against a much younger opponent... she did the nation proud... she lost, but (was not) disgraced... Hats off to her... Salute her fighting spirit and attitude."