Singapore's women table tennis players win Olympic silver
by Chan, Belinda
Singapore’s women’s table tennis team comprising Li Jiawei, Feng Tianwei and Wang Yuegu fought a series of tough battles against the world’s best table tennis players to win Singapore its second Olympic medal in 48 years1 in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The trio won the silver medal in a gripping final match that lasted one hour and 32 minutes,2 in the end losing to China, the country that has the distinction of winning the most Olympic medals for table tennis. South Korea won the bronze.3
Weightlifter Tan Howe Liang, nicknamed “Tiger”4 has the honour of winning Singapore’s first Olympic medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. The 27-year-old- Tan won his silver in weightlifting in the men's lightweight category.5
Singapore had sent 25 athletes to the 2008 Beijing Olympics with the athletes competing in six sports: athletics, badminton, table tennis, sailing, shooting and swimming. Li was the official flag bearer at the Beijing Games opening ceremony held on 8 August 2008.6
Delayed telecast of English National Day Rally Speech
The day and telecast time of the Beijing Olympic women’s table tennis final match on 17 August 2008 clashed with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally Speech. In an unprecedented move, the prime minister postponed the broadcast of his English speech till a day later so that Singaporeans could watch and support the Singapore women's table tennis team. However, the rally itself proceeded as planned, and his Malay and Chinese speeches were also telecast live as scheduled.7 After his National Day Rally speeches, the prime minister congratulated the athletes on winning the silver medal. He said that Singapore’s women paddlers “tried their best and played well” and that the “paddlers have done very well and have done Singapore proud”.8
Meritorious Service Medals
Upon their return to Singapore on 25 August, Li, Feng, Wang and Team Singapore’s athletes and officials were given a warm welcome by some 300 well-wishers at Changi Airport. The Singapore Olympians were taken onto an open-top bus tour of the city to show off their medals. On arrival at Raffles City, there was a welcome back celebration held in their honour.9
Then Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Vivian Balakrishnan, also announced that Li, Wang and Feng would be “conferred the Meritorious Service Medal by the Singapore government” for their achievements. Only two other athletes have received this award for their sporting prowess: weightlifter Tan Howe Liang, Singapore’s first Olympic medallist in 1962, and swimmer Joscelin Yeo in 2006.10
The Singapore paddlers’ victory in Beijing 2008 was especially laudable as Li had narrowly missed out on a medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics and another paddler, Jing Junhong, too, missed her chance of an Olympic medal at the 2000 Sydney Games.11
1. Tan, H.-Y. (2008, August 28). A party 48 years in the making. Today, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Chua, C. H. (2008, August 18). Mission complete? Li hopes to win medals in singles. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. It’s table tennis silver for Singapore. (2008, August 18). The Business Times, p. 26. Retreived from NewspaperSG.
4. Teoh, E. T. (1964, July 19). Will Howe Liang repeat his 1960 feat? The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Joshua, S. (1960, September 15). The ‘miracle’ in Rome. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Singapore Sports Council. (2008, July 10). Best prepared team Singapore contingent at the Beijing 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Retrieved from Sport Singapore website: http://www.sportsingapore.gov.sg/newsroom/media-releases/2008/7/best-prepared-team-singapore-contingent-at-the-beijing-2008-olympic-and-paralympic-games
7. Lee, S. H. (2008, August 17). English telecast of National Day Rally postponed. The Straits Times, p. 1 Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Loh, C. K. (2008, August 18). ‘You have not disappointed us’. Today, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Wang, J., Lin, X., & Chia, V. (2008, August 26). Cheers and national honours for winning trio. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Wang, J., Lin, X., & Chia, V. (2008, August 26). Cheers and national honours for winning trio. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Tay, C. K. (2004, August 23). No medal but S’pore cheers tearful Jiawei. The Straits Times, p. 1; Chan, T. C. (2000, September 24). Brilliant play from Jing but China's world No. 2 Li plays better. The Straits Times, p. 68. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 13 June 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.