By Kannan Raj
After a disastrous outing at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the hammer has come down on Singapore’s number one woman paddler Feng Tianwei.
The Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) today announced a new high performance strategic plan to take it through to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and has left out 30-year-old from the team.
Feng, who has earned about $3 million in salary, prize money and other sponsorships and awards since 2007, was not available for comment.
This move comes a day after the sacking of male player Li Hu for indiscipline.
The high performance strategy plan was developed by the STTA after a consultation session with key stakeholders including Sport Singapore, Singapore Sports School and Singapore National Olympic Council, coaches and players.
Said STTA President Ellen Lee: “After the Rio Olympics, it is indeed timely for STTA to develop, rejuvenate and refresh our teams to be future ready. Bold moves are needed if we are interested in challenging the top table tennis nations for honours. With competition becoming a lot keener, and with rivals like Japan catching up with Singapore, winning at the world stage has become a lot harder. We need to develop and rejuvenate our national teams to be future ready, and we need to place greater emphasis on the development of our youth players.
“Feng Tianwei has been a cornerstone of the national team since 2007. She has brought many golden moments to the sport. We would like to thank her for all that she has done for Singapore table tennis, and we would like to take this opportunity to wish Tianwei all the best in her future endeavours”
National men’s team stalwart Gao Ning will assume a new role as the men’s assistant coach cum player. Gao will begin his professional coaching career as an understudy to current national men’s coach Liu Jiayi. Gao will be closely involved in mentoring and training the younger generation of players from the national team and intermediate squad. Gao is expected to retire from playing after the Asian Games 2018.
Said Gao, who is 34 years-old: “This is a great opportunity which has been given to me by the STTA. I have always wanted to contribute back as a coach after my playing days are over. I am happy that I am given a chance, and will work hard and learn as much as I can from Coach Liu. It is my hope to help as many young Singaporean players fulfil their potential and win medals for Singapore.”
With Gao’s impending retirement from the team, Singapore-born Clarence Chew will be prepared to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Said Clarence Chew: “I’m deeply appreciative of the opportunity to be able to train and study full-time and I will dedicate myself to doing my best and making our nation proud. It is any athlete’s dream to represent the country at the Olympics. I will continue to train hard and work towards my goal of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and would love to have Singaporeans stand by us as we take the next step forward.”
The departure of Feng Tianwei and Li Hu, both foreign sports talents from the national team will again raise questions about the usefulness and acceptance of the policy by members of the public, and the touting of Clarence Chew as a potential Olympian representing Singapore is a step in the right direction for STTA.