A significant part of the national men's table tennis team's evolution will take place next Tuesday, when 19-year-old Ethan Poh is promoted to the senior team.
Poh, a national intermediate squad (NIS) player, and current senior players Clarence Chew and Pang Xue Jie will be charged with leading the men's team to the SEA Games in the Philippines next year and beyond, with veteran Gao Ning retiring after the Aug 18-Sept 2 Asian Games in Indonesia.
The Ngee Ann Polytechnic business management student said: "This promotion gives me more confidence and also more motivation for me to train harder. I also hope this promotion can inspire other local players to work towards their dreams."
Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) president Ellen Lee said: "The STTA has always been committed to growing the sport and introducing more Singapore-born players in the national team.
"We are focused on a gradual push and we hope that more young Singaporeans will follow the footsteps of Ethan to play table tennis professionally."
Poh started playing table tennis at five, and made his SEA Games debut last year in Kuala Lumpur, where he won a silver in the men's doubles with Chew, 22, and in the team event. He then made his Commonwealth Games bow on the Gold Coast this month, where he and Koen Pang, 15, surpassed expectations to finish fourth in the men's doubles.
"Being able to take part in these two major Games in back-to-back years has helped me a lot," said Poh, who left with the national team last night for the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Sweden, which starts on Sunday.
"The on-court atmosphere at these Games helped me grow in terms of coping with pressure and being consistent and decisive."
STTA senior high-performance manager Eddy Tay said that the teenager was promoted because of his recent results, and could do with more consistency.
Tay said: "His playing style is quite good - he is aggressive with a lot of power, and he is fast, so that part of his game does not require a lot of tweaking. But he needs to work on his consistency - he could play very well at one moment and not so well the next."
Promotion to the national team means that Poh's training expenses will be covered by the association and he will also get a training allowance and more access to higher-level competitions.
For example, NIS players may go for four competitions on the International Table Tennis Federation's second-tier Challenge Series, while senior players could go for six stops on the top-tier World Tour circuit.
While Poh dreams of winning an Olympic medal, he has his eyes set on the SEA Games next year.
He said: "My current goal would be to represent Singapore in the singles event there and, of course, to win back the men's team gold medal (which Singapore lost to Vietnam)."