Monday, September 27, 2010

Commonwealth Games: Paddlers spearhead Singapore's hopes

Singapore might be a world leader in many things but sport isn't one of them, although they do boast top-class table tennis players who go into the Commonwealth Games as firm favourites.

The city-state is expected to send 71 athletes who will compete in nine of the 17 sports being contested.

Their aim is to better the five gold, six silver and seven bronze medals they won in Melbourne four years ago.

Singaporean hopes lie heavily with their paddlers, who supplied four of their gold medals in Melbourne - women's team, mixed doubles, women's singles and women's doubles.

In fact, 11 of their total Games medal haul of 18 came in table tennis, and more of the same is expected in Delhi.

The tone was set at the world team championships in Moscow in June when Singapore's women upset heavily-fancied China to take the title, and the likes of Feng Tianwei, Wang Yuegu, and Sun Beibei will be difficult to beat in Delhi.

Singapore's men paddlers are not in the same league, but should still challenge for podium places with the experienced Yang Chuan Ning recently-appointed as their new coach

A Chinese native, Yang has groomed numerous Olympic and world champions and the Singapore Table Tennis Association is overjoyed that he is onboard.

"We are ecstatic to have attracted one of the top coaches to Singapore Table Tennis Association," said president Er Lee Bee Wah.

"Yang Chuan Ning brings a wealth of experience with him in developing table tennis players and I believe he will take our men paddlers to the next level."

Singapore also has a strong chance of medalling in the pool through Tao Li, who impressed when she finished fifth in the 50m butterfly at the Beijing Olympics.

"I have pressure, but I hope it can be a motivation for me as well," the 20-year-old recently told local media.

"I'm always confident in myself, because being an athlete you must be confident in yourself so you can compete in the higher levels, and not be mentally down."

Breaststroke swimmer Parker Lam is seen as Singapore's best hope on the men's side.

Singapore is also traditionally strong in shooting and they have opportunities in badminton with most of the sport's world powers, such as China, South Korea, Indonesia, not eligible for these Games.

The biggest threat for Singaporean shuttlers should come from Malaysia, England and India.

Yao Lei and Shinta Mulia Sari, likely to be the top seeds in the women's doubles, are a decent gold medal chance, while seasoned campaigners Hendri Kurniawan Saputra and Hendra Wijaya should challenge in the men's doubles.

Elsewhere, the country is sending a female weightlifter to a major Games for the first time. Helena Wong will fly the flag, but is not expected to medal.

Singapore has participated in 13 Commonwealth Games, beginning in 1958 in Cardiff, Wales.

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