By Liu Enqi (18S03C)
If you had walked into the Pasir Ris Sports Centre on the afternoon of 20 April, you would have felt the floor vibrate with the deafening sound of rousing cheers. Thursday, 20 April marked the day of the National Inter-schools table tennis finals, and our Raffles paddlers were undoubtedly under tremendous pressure to excel since they were facing traditionally formidable rivals Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) and Nanyang Junior College (NYJC).
Table tennis is a game that is part intense concentration and part pure reflex – a heady combination if skills are put to good use. It is mesmerising and strangely hypnotic to watch the back-and-forth service between both parties at the table.
From the very first serve onwards, every half-second, every millimetre is crucial and directly influences the entire team’s chance at the championship. As you watch, you find your eyes tracking the ball’s every movement, and your heart, too, speeds up in your chest, your breath coming faster as the suspense builds, until the fateful moment when either side slips up and their opponent’s side of the stadium erupts in cheers.
The Raffles supporters were very much hyped and their spirit was evident, which went a long way towards boosting the team’s morale. They would periodically cheer loudly with all their hearts and whenever any Raffles player scored.
The game consists of 5 matches, and the champion title goes to the team who wins 3 matches. Each match has 5 sets and similarly, the team who wins 3 sets wins that match.
Response started out lukewarm and the spectators were mostly rather disengaged at first, but by the end of the third match, especially when the boys’ team was leading NYJC by 2-1, most of the supporters had shot to their feet, transfixed.
With the atmosphere fraught with tension, there should have been much buzz among those watching, but many were tense and silent, watching intently for fear of missing a crucial moment.
Under these circumstances, with hundreds of eyes on them, the Raffles paddlers were definitely under much stress to play their best. Yet, the team were admirably unfazed. They proceeded to triumph in that match, resulting in a 3-1 for Raffles which successfully clinched them the title.
Instead of packing up and going home, everyone moved to the other side of the stadium to support the girls’ team, who had not yet finished their final. Even the boys, high from their recent triumph, stayed to support their teammates.
With the Raffles school flag flying high above the ground, watching the three schools gather to cheer on their schoolmates or seniors was a truly heartwarming sight. It was the best display of the Rafflesian spirit and the strength of the bond that brings us all together as one Raffles family. The girls’ team played excellently and emerged champions as well.
Perhaps another significant moment worth mentioning was after the final. Despite the longstanding rivalry between the two schools Hwa Chong and RI, the delegations from each school still exhibited admirable sportsmanship and assembled to cheer for each other at the end. Both teams congratulated each other on matches well played and no matter the results, it was mutually agreed that every player was valuable and every team was a winner in their own right.