Table tennis: S'pore paddlers earn historic spot in the Olympics' men's singles

Koen Pang (pictured) will battle teammate Clarence Chew in the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament final for a spot at the Tokyo Games. PHOTO COURTESY OF ITTF

SINGAPORE - For the first time in Singapore's table tennis history, a local-born paddler will be competing in the men's singles at the Olympic Games after Koen Pang and Clarence Chew both reached the final of the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in Doha.

With the winner of the clash earning a ticket to Tokyo, the all-Singaporean final guarantees a spot for the Republic.

While China-born Gao Ning last competed for Singapore at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where he was eliminated in the second round, no local-born player has ever qualified for the men's individual event.

The Singapore women's team of Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu and Lin Ye have already booked their spot at the July 23-Aug 8 Games, with world No. 10 Feng and world No. 48 Yu to also contest the women's singles.

Competing at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiya Arena, both Pang and Chew won their semi-final matches on Friday (March 19) after topping their respective groups in the South-east Asian contest at the tournament.

SEA Games champion Pang, 18, beat Thailand's Padasak Tanviriyavechakul 4-0 (17-15, 11-6, 11-5, 11-7), while Chew defeated Indonesia's Rafanael Nikola Niman 4-1 (11-7, 7-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-4).

Pang said: "I was very calm and collected when I played today, and I executed my strategies well. I was very confident as I knew what to do as I played him once and won against him in the 2019 SEA Games."

While happy to reach the final, Chew, 25, plans to try and "stay calm" ahead of the clash with his teammate on Saturday as he focuses on his receiving and footwork.

He said: "It will definitely be a tough match but I just want to give my best and leave no regrets regardless of results."

In the mixed doubles earlier in the day, Pang and Lin Ye narrowly missed out on the final after a 4-2 (12-10, 9-11, 11-5, 5-11, 11-8, 13-11) defeat by India's Sharath Kamal Achanta and Manika Batra in the last four.

The Indian pair will meet South Korean pair Lee Sang-su and Jeon Ji-hee in the final on Saturday for a spot at the Tokyo Games.

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