Table tennis reaching new heights

Fadhil Yunus

Table tennis is steadily making inroads in the country and overseas as a number of junior or grassroots paddlers look to find their killer instinct for success in major competitions.

The country has been blessed with an army of young talents bursting into the domestic scene considering the strong participation and turnout of participants in the national championships coupled with newcomers stepping up their game.

Local players are also elevating their game to new heights to be recognised as the country’s best which serves as a platform for involvement in the international scene.

Prior to last year’s Brunei National Table Tennis Championship, Awangku Abdul Rasheed bin Pengiran Haji Mohd Noor has never progressed to the men’s open final.

In his first attempt, he etched his name into the record books after he defeated the master Wee Tzu Min, who had logged in numerous appearances in the final.

Awangku Abdul Rasheed, who reached the semi-finals in the President Cup, rallied from championship point awarded to his opponent to clinch the prestigious title.

Mixed doubles winner Awangku Abdul Rasheed bin Pengiran Haji Mohd Noor and Ting Siew Chien in a group photo. PHOTO: FADHIL YUNUS

“I have taken part in a lot of events but I started from the bottom. At first, I lost in the round of 16 in the knock-out stages. I did not give up and I continued my training,” said the country’s emerging talent.

It was a classic tale of a standoff between student and coach as Awangku Abdul Rasheed expressed his pride with his victory.

“I feel very proud because Wee is an excellent player. Before this, he was in a number of final appearances. He has won a lot of tournaments. But, I feel very proud in not only reaching the final but also to be a champion.”

The newly crowned men’s open champion described the challenges he had to endure during the game of his life in the face of fierce competition with his coach.

“Sometimes you can feel down but I try my very best. Alhamdulillah, I was able to chase the points and became more spirited.”

Alluding to the belief that competition is heating up in both the men’s and women’s divisions in the country’s table tennis, Ting Siew Chien became the new heiress to the women’s throne with a victory over arguably the country’s top women’s paddler Fiona Hii Wee Ting.

Ting Siew Chien has proven a worthy successor to a player that has been consistently at the top in the country having forged a reputation as the winner of the President Cup.

“Before entering the court, I was thinking what I should do to win against Fiona. Actually, she is quite strong and I guess she is not at her best. I’m at my best and I’m probably a bit lucky,” Ting Siew Chien said.

“I tried to attack and apparently none of it had really gone in so I just played passive. Patience is the key because she was playing my game. That’s why she is at a disadvantage. If she really attacks, I would be at a disadvantage,” she added.

The national female champion said that there is still a room for improvement despite having two major domestic titles under her belt. “I guess there is a room for improvement especially if you go to an international level. Although winning Brunei Open, you have to think higher for the regional and international events. I’ll just have to keep on improving.

“We have a group of players that played together under coach Wee three times per week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at the Menglait Sports Complex,” she added.

Awangku Abdul Rasheed and Ting Siew Chien were also paired together in the mixed doubles and fittingly won gold.

Over the years, young and junior players have been competing in the Southeast Asian Junior and Cadet Table Tennis Championship including the latest edition in Bangkok last year, in the hunt for improved results against the region’s finest youngsters.

Meanwhile, eight young talents also represented the country in the ‘Silk Road Cup’ China-Asean Table Tennis Tournament at Jingxi City, Baise Municipality in December 2019.

The country through the Brunei Darussalam Sports School Council (MSSSBD) also competed in the Asean School Games in Semarang, Indonesia last June.

Last April, Fiona Hii Wee Ting emerged winner of the Brunei National Junior Table Tennis Championship despite sitting out from training for two months ahead of the meet.

“I didn’t expect to win myself this time because I skipped training for two months. Then, I come back for three training sessions for the tournament,” Fiona said.

The country also welcomed a new star Chin Fong Bin after winning the under-13 title after avenging his loss against Felix Low Guo Zhang from the previous edition.

While the victories by Awangku Abdul Rasheed and Ting Siew Chien sent shockwaves across the table tennis community in the country, Chin’s moment of redemption further reinforced the notion of heightened competition in the country across various age groups.