By Chan Hui Mui/Red Sports
London, Thursday, August 2, 2012 — Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, 25, beat Kasumi Ishikawa of Japan 4-0 (11-9, 11-6, 11-6, 11-5) to clinch the table tennis women’s singles bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
This is Singapore’s first Olympic medal in an individual event in 52 years. Tan Howe Liang won a weightlifting silver at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
In 2008, Singapore’s women paddlers won a silver in the table tennis team event at the Beijing Olympics.
Tianwei was seeded sixth in the tournament and the top 16 seeds bypassed the first and second round. Tianwei first saw action in the third round against 19-year-old Chen Szu-Yu of Chinese Taipei. Feng beat Chen 4-1 (11-6, 11-13, 11-5, 12-10, 11-9) to proceed to the fourth round.
In that round, Tianwei faced Wu Jiaduo of Germany and beat the ninth seed 4-2 (11-6, 7-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-6, 11-6) to secure her spot in the quarter-final.
Tianwei’s quarter-final opponent was third seed Korean Kim Kyungah, 35, who had beaten her in their previous two encounters. Tianwei had a shaky start, and trailed by five points at one point in the first game before winning it 13-11.
Tianwei led 3-1 before dropping the fifth set 10-12 to lead 3-2 overall.
In the sixth set, Tianwei came from 6-9 down to tie it up 9-9. Kim then went to game point, but Tianwei reeled off the next three points to win the quarter-final 4-2 (13-11, 11-7, 4-11, 11-6, 10-12, 12-10).
In the semi-final, Tianwei had a showdown with world number one Ding Ning of China that had some spectacular rallies.
Tianwei has a poor start and handed Ding a 2-0 lead (7-11, 4-11). Tianwei then picked herself up to take the third set 11-9 and looked good in the fourth set, leading all the until the ninth point. However, Ding surged ahead to take the game 12-10 for an overall 3-1 lead.
Tianwei then took the fifth set 11-6 with some quick backhand strokes to trail by one game at 2-3 but she had a poor sixth set. Ding raced to a 9-3 lead before Feng reduced the deficit to three points at 9-6. However, she could not stop Ding from wrapping up the sixth game 11-6 for a 4-2 win (11-7, 11-4, 9-11, 10-12, 6-11, 11-6).
Singapore missed out on the women’s singles bronze in the last three Olympics. Jing Junhong finished fourth in 2000 and Li Jiawei lost the playoff for bronze twice in 2004 and 2008.
Standing in Tianwei’s way was Kasumi Ishikawa of Japan, who turned 19 in February. Ishikawa had previously beaten Feng’s compatriot Wang Yuegu in the quarterfinal 4-1 (8-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-8, 11-4).
Tianwei and Ishikawa went point for point for the first nine points of the first set before Ishikawa made two crucial mistakes to allow Tianwei to take the game 11-9.
Tianwei completely dominated from the second set onwards with her pace, going on to take the remaining three sets with ease, 11-6, 11-6, 11-5 to win the bronze medal.
Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s prime minister, shared his thoughts on Facebook about Tianwei’s exploits in London.
“Tianwei fought for every point (in the semi-final). Her attacking rallies were magnificent. My wife and I were glued to the set. We cheered Tianwei on, and applauded when she scored, even though it was just the two of us watching on TV at home,” wrote Mr Lee.
“We knew that Tianwei had an uphill battle, but our hearts raced after she won the 5th game, and the match stood at 2-3. She had a chance, but in the end Ding Ning was too good.
“Congrats to Tianwei for a resounding 4-0 win over Ishikawa of Japan. Singapore’s first individual Olympic medal in 52 years! We are all proud of you,” added Mr Lee.