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Table Tennis: Isabelle Li lost, but inspired

At the Singapore Indoor Stadium today, I understood why the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) are held and why Singapore was elated to win the bid.

GIVING HER ALL FOR THE GOLD

XINHUA/SYOGOC-POOL/FAN JUN

At the Singapore Indoor Stadium today, I understood why the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) are held and why Singapore was elated to win the bid.

The stadium was filled with supporters dressed in red, armed with clappers and waving the Singapore flag. They were all there to cheer on Singapore’s hope for the gold medal this YOG⎯Isabelle Li.

Funny how an athlete can embody a nation’s dreams, and yet Isabelle’s achievement was a pleasant reminder that our talents can be homegrown.

At the age of 16, Isabelle showed maturity in her play and put up a great fight as she played in the women’s singles’ gold medal match today.

Going against China’s Gu Yuting, it was clear that their playing styles were different. Yuting was aggressive and on a constant attacking mode while Isabelle defended her court throughout the game.

With each set, Isabelle showed tremendous fighting spirit and played a good game that also frustrated her opponent. And even when her coach was sent off the courts for violating the time limit rules, Isabelle maintained calm and continue to play a level-headed game. Despite her efforts, Isabelle eventually conceded the match (0-4) and won silver for Singapore.

At the end of the game, Isabelle thanked her supporters and said that her dream for the future is “to represent Singapore at the 2016 Olympic Games”. The roaring cheers Singapore bestowed upon her afterwards were a testament of Singapore’s recognition for even her youth athletes.

So if we are still whining about how our vehicles have to give way to the YOG lanes, perhaps we haven’t caught a glimpse of the spirit of YOG yet. And Isabelle today showed us why it’s worth spending the time and enduring the ‘inconvenience’.

Because even though Isabelle Li may have came in second at this YOG, there’s no saying what her future in the Olympic Games would be like. With the skill and composure she showed today, she could very well be our first gold medalist.

Because Singapore, as a young nation, should understand too that having won the bid and staging an international event like YOG is also a step towards our future.