Written by: Ng Shu Chin
Edited by: Shalom Alexandra
Another year, another IHG. Coverage is tough – first aiders, drivers, photographers and writers alike suffer to make IHG as smooth-sailing and enjoyable as possible for our athletes. And KE’s athletes reward us support staff through their hard work, grit, and spirit. KE’s male table tennis team was no exception. Despite facing a much stronger team, Raffles Hall, our table tennis team did not give up, and instead gave their all in a demonstration of their fighting spirit and drive to win.
|Koh Zhao Ming||KE 0 – 3 RH|
|Shao YujinJiang Shenhao||KE 0 – 3 RH|
|Lu Jianyu||KE 0 – 3 RH|
|Melvin Tan Jun KeongKenneth Ng Yu Wei||KE 0 – 3 RH|
|Chen Yunjin||KE 0 – 2 RH (forfeited in Raffles favour)|
Overall Score: KE 0 – 5 Raffles
Singles – Zhao Ming
KE’s Sports Director was the first in the line-up. Having prevailed against his Raffles opponent in last year’s IHG, Zhao Ming was hoping for a repeat of his victory. The match started with a rapid exchange of points. Unfortunately, Raffles proved stronger, winning the first set 10-7.
The art of imparting spin to the ball is difficult for ping pong players to master, and even harder for untrained spectators to appreciate. I hence heaved a (silent) sigh of relief to myself as the second set proved more interesting with both players executing more powerful smashes. Neither Zhao Ming nor Raffles’ Aujin was able to gain the upper hand at the start of the second set, with both players trading points. Unfortunately, Aujin was slowly able to get a handle on Zhao Ming, slowly chipping away at his defences till the set reached 5-10 to Raffles. Despite being on the verge of losing his second set, Zhao Ming kept a remarkably cool head. He served well, giving the ball a nasty spin, causing Raffles to completely miss the return. To cheers of “好球” (literal: good ball) from his teammates, Zhao Ming readied himself for his opponent’s serve. His return was swift and accurate, and the ball hit the edge of the table, bouncing in an unpredictable path which evoked a cry of dismay from his opponent. However, a fairy tale victory was not to be as Zhao Ming could not return Raffles’ next serve, allowing Raffles to win the set 7-11.
After Aujin’s cry of despair in the second set, it was Zhao Ming’s turn to produce strange sounds in the third set. Raffles was now increasingly on form, and managed to force a series of errors from Zhao Ming. After missing yet another smash, Zhao Ming let out a low guttural moan. The moan seemed to give him strength. Zhao Ming immediately hit a series of beautiful serves and returns, narrowing the gap to 9-7 from 8-4. Raffles promptly called a time-out. The pause did not break up Zhao Ming’s rhythm, and he caught up further and managed to equalise after returning Raffles’ smash. Both players then made a few mistakes and the score was now 11 – 11. The tension in the supporters was palpable, with a possible victory in sight for this set. Unfortunately, Raffles proved too strong, and prevailed, winning the set 13 – 11, and the match 3 – 0.
Doubles – Yujin and Shenhao
The mismatch in skill levels between Raffles and KE was evident in the next game. Vice-Captain Yujin and Shenhao faced much stronger opponents, and succumbed 1 – 11, 3 – 11, 2 – 11. Despite the tough circumstances, the duo never once chided each other for any mistake, instead offering encouragement. The KE supporters close by made their presence felt with shouts of “加油” (literal: add oil, figurative: press on). The match was over mercifully quickly, with Raffles winning the match 3 – 0.
Singles – Jianyu
KE’s male table tennis captain was up next. This match’s style was different from the games before. Both Jianyu and his opponent favoured fast serves and powerful smashes instead of slow slices to impart spin. The points stacked up as fast as the players’ smashes. Jianyu led the first set, scoring 5 to his opponent’s 1. However, Raffles was merely getting into his game, and, with a series of powerful smashes, equalised and pulled ahead 6 – 5. Raffles proved stronger, and served a powerful shot which Jianyu barely managed to return. Raffles capitalised on the slow and high return with a smash, and won the first set 11 – 8.
Jianyu made his opponent work hard to win the second set. Both players hit fast and powerful balls, forcing the other to stretch and move rapidly to even have a chance to return the shots. Raffles’ player looked the worse for wear after the set, and he hurried off to stretch his calf muscles before the start of the next set. Jianyu, fitter, spent his break chatting with his teammates.
For the third set, Raffles adopted a defensive approach, relying on his quick footwork to counter Jianyu’s smashes, content to win points through Jianyu’s mistakes. Jianyu was nonetheless unable to prevail against his stronger opponent, and eventually lost 8 – 11. Despite the loss, Jianyu’s teammates congratulated him on a game well played against a stronger opponent.
Doubles – Melvin and Kenneth
Melvin and Kenneth were, in their own words, the lousiest players in the KE table tennis team. Despite being the underdogs, the duo started strong, leading Raffles 2 – 1 at the start of the first set. However, Raffles soon caught up with smashes which neither Melvin nor Kenneth had no answer to. KE nonetheless put up a strong fight, and led 10 – 8 after a mistake by Raffles. Unfortunately, KE was unable to hold on to the lead, as a combination of Raffles smashes and KE’s service mistakes allowed Raffles to win 12 – 10.
KE’s performance in the next two sets was much worse with Kenneth and Melvin making many costly mistakes. Nonetheless, Melvin and Kenneth were enjoying their game, and, most importantly for the two year 1s, were gaining loads of IHG competition experience, experience which will hopefully serve them well if they compete in next year’s edition.
Singles – Yunjin
Yunjin was the last player of the day for KE. With the prior matches sealing the victory for Raffles (4 – 0), this match was of no consequence to the final result. Yunjin and his good friend, his Raffles opponent, hence decided to play only two sets, after which they would forfeit the game.
Despite the agreement, the sets played were no less intense. Yunjin forced his rival to use not only one but two towels in just two sets. Despite the intense workout for the slightly plump Raffles player, his advantage in skill and experience was beyond Yunjin’s advantage in physique, and Raffles won the first two sets easily before the game was forfeited in Raffle’s favour.
While KE did not win a single set, this was understandable given the gulf in skill between KE and Raffles. It was heartening to see that KE did not give up, but instead fought hard over every point, forcing Raffles to earn their victory with sweat and aching muscles.
KE Press wishes KE’s male table tennis team all the best in their further games!
Photos from KE Vision