Written by Lu Jinyao (14A01D), Wilson Chan (15A01C), Sharvani Kim (15A01D) and Kang Yi Xi (15S03N)
Having racked up a laudable medal tally of two golds last year, the A Division table tennis team faced much pressure to match their track record. Despite formidable competition from traditional opponents Hwa Chong Institution and Nanyang Junior College, our Raffles paddlers succeeded in living up to expectations and walked away once again with a hard-earned haul of two gold medals.
A Division Girls
The contest between our girls’ team and its counterpart from Hwa Chong Institution was a veritable clash of two titans, with tensions running high between supporters from both schools seated right next to each other in the stands. The first game was arguably the most nerve-racking game for the girls as it was far from an one-sided affair, featuring impressive manoeuvres from both paddlers that neutralized each other’s temporary leads straight till the fifth set. Raffles player Lam Teng Si started strong, taking down the first set by a clear margin with a score of 11-3. However, a series of inadvertent errors by Teng Si gave her Hwa Chong opponent the opportunity to triumph the second set with a score of 11-4. The third and fourth sets continued to be tight races that plunged the match’s outcome into uncertain waters. Having been bested in the third set, Teng Si came back from the time-out invigorated and denied Hwa Chong a premature win in the fourth set. Eventually, Teng Si’s adroit control of the ball played a major role in the opponent’s fatal misfire that sent the ball flying past the table in the fifth set, securing the first crucial victory for Raffles.
The triumphant first game was a compelling morale boost for Raffles, as our paddlers continued to edge out their rivals. The second game was filled with close calls, with neither the Raffles duo of Cheryl Tang and Charlene Koh nor their counterparts being able to take the lead.
In contrast, the third game was characterised by Lim Yi Xuan’s aggressive play, which dominated the table and left her opponent little space for retaliation. Yi Xuan won the first set with a decisive victory of 11-5. The second round was a close call, with the two neck and neck with a score of 11-11 when her opponent’s ball missed the table to bring the score to 12-11. With one more point necessary to win the set, Yi Xuan sent the ball expertly over the net, where it deflected off the opponent’s bat and flew into the fence next to the table. The third set was an overwhelming victory for her, concluding with a score of 11-1. This spectacularly-executed third game eventually completed the third straight victory of the Raffles team, bringing back the much-coveted gold medal amidst thunderous applause from the Rafflesian crowd.
A Division Boys
Compared to the girls, the boys’ contest was much of a safe course. Rafflesian Xiao Peng declared Raffles domination from the first set onwards, leading 8-0 within five minutes into the first set. His quick reflexes were the determining factor that enabled him to gain significant leads over his opponent, who made multiple slip-ups as the increasingly widening score divide caused his confidence to gradually falter.
Perhaps having been galvanised by Xiao Peng’s excellent performance, Tsai Ren Jie and Alphonse Ang dealt rapid and successive attacks during the doubles game, enabling them to swiftly trounce their opponents in the first two sets. Despite making several inaccurate shots in the third set, our paddlers rose from those mistakes to take the second game.
The third match played by Oscar Chau was evidently the highlight of the boys’ contest. Unlike the previous smooth-sailing games, Oscar faced stiff competition from his NYJC opponent. The game was fraught with intense, fast-paced ball play, and the many high shots pulled off by both sides made for a breathtaking experience for spectators. Regrettably, Raffles ceded the game to NYJC by a slim margin as the Nanyang player took the last set. This defeat was a clear disruption to the plans of the boys’ team, who had expected a clean straight-three victory. When asked about his opinions on the game, Oscar expressed that the intensity of the game made it a dynamic and rewarding experience for both sides, and team captain Benjamin Ban acknowledged that “(the NYJC) team does have their strengths as well. Ultimately it was a good learning point for both.”
Fortunately, Raffles made a comeback during the final game as our Year 5 paddlers Chua Shao Shxuan and Liu Tian prevailed over their two opponents to obtain the crucial victory required for Raffles to win yet another gold medal. In the third and fourth sets, the NYJC players seemed to lose their resolve — having been disoriented by the repeated volleys of rapid shots and smashes sent by the Rafflesians, they were unable to put up a strong defence and consequently failed to obtain more than 3 points for both rounds.
Throughout the game, our Rafflesian supporters constantly tried to outdo our rival schools in the volume and enthusiasm of cheers, creating the an ear-ringing cacophony of hollers as our paddlers took the challenge head-on. The authors felt especially heartened upon hearing the spirited rendition of the Unite cheer after the championship. As player Cheryl Tang expressed her sincere thanks to all the supporters, the authors’ greatest takeaway was that no great sportsman can exist solely on his or her own. Mr Chan Joo Kiat, the teacher-in-charge of Table Tennis, evidently agreed with these sentiments, for he stated, “I think this has been a collective effort; the teachers, the coaches and the school have provided all the support.”
For the paddlers, the National Finals were a bittersweet experience indeed, for the competition’s end also marked the end of their journey in fighting for Raffles. ‘I’d trade all my tomorrows for just one yesterday,’ shared Lam Teng Si. However, the authors are certain that the memories she carved with the team will never fade into the background of her life. On this note, the authors would like to extend our heartiest congratulations to the two victorious teams — for the drive, determination and passion with which they played for Raffles.