By Claire Yip (13A01A) and Lye Han Jun (13A01A)
Team spirit and sporting ardour carried our A division Table Tennis players through the finals held on Tuesday 24 April, which saw the boys emerging as champions against Nanyang Junior College (NYJC), while the girls team obtained silver against long-time rival Hwa Chong Institution (HCI).
The NYJC boys team, the dark horse of the table tennis circuit, sought to end RI’s 7-year hold on the gold. Unintimidated, the RI team played valiantly, and won 3 out of 5 matches. The critical moment of the day came, however, at the final match: both schools had won 2 matches thus far, so this was the match that would determine which school would emerge champion. Bryan Teo (13SO3L), a national youth player, played this last singles match and brought Raffles to victory by soundly defeating NYJC, not letting them score any more than 5 points in all 3 games.
Later, we spoke with Bryan, who comes from a family of table tennis greats — his brothers were national table tennis players. ‘I think we exceeded expectations,’ he said, humbly, considering that the teams have been training for the finals for at least a year, at the intensity of 5 to 6 days a week during competition season. After playing the defining match of the entire inter-school boys’ table tennis competition, he felt ‘very happy’ that the team had managed to ‘defend the title’. On a personal level, he shared: ‘I did my brothers proud,’ but he was careful to note that his family did not pressurise him in any way.
The girls team started strong, opening with Year 6 player Chau Hai Qing (12S03S) against HCI. She maintained a lead of at least 7 points per game for the match, but the team faltered in doubles as HCI changed their predicted strategy and sent their strongest players instead. Subsequently, the next 3 matches went to HCI. The team put up an admirable fight right down to the last doubles match, even managing to briefly hold a 4-point lead in the 3rd game, but could not fend off HCI’s advance. Eventually, the opponents rebounded and ended the heated game with a score of 10-12 to HCI.
Despite not reclaiming the trophy, which had only been recently displaced from our cabinets, team captain Hai Qing remained positive. Graceful in defeat, she told us that she was very proud of her team and felt that they had done well. We also spoke to Sherilyn Tan, a Year 5 team player , who expressed that she had “no regrets, because [the team] put in [their] all”. With their matching green hair ribbons, green and black shoelaces and pendants with their initials around their necks, it was evident that they were a bonded team. The boys, on the other hand, showed their team spirit in less tangible ways. ‘We don’t really buy accessories,’ Bryan said, but their team spirit is forged through their shared experiences: ‘When we train together, eat together, and play together.’
Overall, the Raffles family clinched two out of four Golds, including the girls’ B division victory against Cedar Girls’ School. Even if we did not manage to obtain all four golds, the resounding rendition of the institution anthem in the middle of the courts, with all three schools huddling about our flags in the centre of the hall, was possibly the most authentic display of school spirit your correspondents have witnessed yet.