Table tennis: 'Every SEA Games is a clean slate', Singapore men's captain Clarence Chew tells team

(From left) National table tennis players Lin Ye, Wong Xin Ru, women's assistant coach Hao Anlin, Goi Ruixuan, women's coach Jing Junhong, Zhou Jingyi and Zeng Jian. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - He was knocked out in the second round at the Olympics, but national paddler Clarence Chew still learnt valuable lessons from his debut in Tokyo that he will take with him to Hanoi for the May 12-23 SEA Games.

"Being able to play at the Olympics allowed me to gain the sort of maturity I need to handle high-pressure situations and nerves on a big sporting stage," he said at a media conference organised by the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) on Wednesday (May 4).

"Hopefully I can apply this to the SEA Games and go in with the same mentality of enjoying myself, giving my best performance and leaving with no regrets."

Chew, 26, was the silver medallist at the 2019 edition in the Philippines after losing the final to teammate Koen Pang, and is hoping to go one better.

But he added: "When it comes to the SEA Games, there are expectations of us and there are targets I want to achieve but I'm trying not to put so much pressure on myself.

"My advice to my teammates, especially the younger ones, is to try not to have so much pressure on yourself - be it from past results or your own expectations. Every SEA Games is a clean slate."

World No. 120 Chew will be leading the men's team, which also includes Pang, Ethan Poh, Josh Chua and Lucas Tan in Hanoi. The women's team of Goi Ruixuan, Wong Xinru, Zeng Jian and Zhou Jingyi will be led by defending women's singles champion Lin Ye.

Zeng, 25, and Zhou, 16, are the only debutantes in the squad.

While Zeng said it was an honour to be competing, she noted that there were challenges ahead.

"I've never participated in the SEA Games so being unsure of the competition standard and rhythm gives me the biggest pressure. But as long as I prepare well and focus on the competition, I hope I can get good results," she said.

Lin, 26, is also tuning herself out to external factors.

The world No. 101 said: "No matter what competition it is, it's a new start for me so I don't want to think about the past. It's a new challenge each time."

While the team will be defending three gold medals in Vietnam - the two singles titles from 2019 as well as the 2017 women's team title - STTA president Ellen Lee declined to set a medal target for them, noting that "after a lapse of two years, it's the first large-scale regional event they're going to".

Pointing to the younger ones heading to Hanoi in the absence of Olympian Feng Tianwei and the newly retired Yu Mengyu, Lee noted that it will not be easy for the younger paddlers to fill those shoes. The team in Hanoi are all aged 26 or below, with the youngest, Zhou, turning 17 on May 8.

She said: "This younger group of players have been with us for a long time and we've groomed them since they were very young.

"They've gained some experience (from tournaments outside Singapore) but at major Games, there will be renewed challenges for them.

"However, I have strong belief in them that they will do their best.

"It's always our intention to groom more table tennis talents to represent Singapore at the world stage and having the next generation representing Singapore at the 2022 SEA Games clearly shows that STTA is on the right path."

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