By Les Tan/Red Sports
Fu Mingtian of Singapore in action during the women’s singles final against Firdasari Adryanti of Indonesia at the Istora Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Photo 1 by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images for SSC)
Jakarta, Saturday, November 19, 2011 — When Singapore’s Fu Mingtian made an improbable shot at the net to go ahead 21-20 in the final set to stun Indonesia’s Firdasari Adriyanti, you knew the South-east Asian (SEA) Games badminton singles gold was hers.
Mingtian and Firdasari were tied at 20-20 in the decider when both players engaged in an intricate series of net play. Firdasari played a drop shot so close that it seemed improbable for Mingtian to return it.
However, Mingtian, 21, conjured up what must be the return of the badminton tournament, salvaging the shuttle with a delicate touch that saw it hit the net cord on its way back down before falling into Firdasari’s side. A stunned Firdasari looked at the umpire, hoping that there must have been something illegal with such an improbable shot.
With momentum on her side, Mingtian went on to wrap up the deciding set 22-20 to beat Firdasari 2-1 (14-21, 21-12, 22-20). In doing so, she also made history by securing Singapore’s first-ever women’s SEA Games singles gold. The last time Singapore won a singles gold was in 1983 through Wong Shoon Keat. Singapore won a women’s team gold in 2003.
Despite losing the first set 14-21, Mingtian showed resilience to come back and win the next set 21-12 to force the decider.
“Although I was behind by one point, the game was not over and I could not give up,” said Mingtian.
“The Indonesian supporters are very intimidating. I did not let such external factors affect me; I chose to focus on my game. I had to count on my own motivation at this stage, and thankfully I also had the support of Singaporeans here who were cheering me on.” said Mingtian.
A small but vocal group of Singapore fans were on hand to egg her on and the emotion of the occasion was too much for Mingtian. After receiving her gold medal, Mingtian cried on the podium when the Singapore national flag was raised and the anthem played in the background. The Indonesian home crowd, in an act of unsportsmanship, sang their own national anthem to drown out ours.
Mingtian started her journey to the gold with a 2-0 (21-14, 21-19) victory over Manuput Bellaetrix of Indonesia. In the quarter-final, she saw off Lydia Cheah by a similar 2-0 (23-21, 21-14) margin.
In the semi-final, she had a hard fight with Intanon Ratchanok of Thailand, before prevailing 2-1 (21-17, 19-21, 22-20) after the deciding set also went to deuce.
“She has excellent fighting spirit and mental strength. She really deserves the gold medal,” said Singapore’s chef-de-mission, Dr Tan Eng Liang.
“I am overjoyed because I never imagined I could win the gold medal. To me, this is a huge encouragement,” said Mingtian.
A Singapore fan, Lim Si Hao, wrote on the Team Singapore Facebook page: “Really am proud to be a Singaporean. Fu Mingtian, you are just wonderful!! simply beautiful!!!!”
Fu Mingtian celebrates a winning point. (Photo 2 by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images for SSC)
Fu Mingtian in action against Firdasari Adryanti in the intimidating atmosphere of the Istora Stadium. (Photo 3 by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images for SSC)
Fu Mingtian shows off her singles gold, the first for Singapore since Wong Shoon Keat back in 1983. (Photo 4 by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images for SSC)