Tokyo Olympics: Yu Mengyu battles, but fails in bronze-medal bid

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Singapore paddler Yu Mengyu returns a shot against Mima Ito of Japan in the women's singlers bronze-medal match at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Singapore paddler Yu Mengyu returns a shot against Mima Ito of Japan in the women's singlers bronze-medal match at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (PHOTO: Reuters/Hannah Mckay)

Reporting from Tokyo

TOKYO — Nursing a thigh injury at the most inopportune time, Yu Mengyu still suited up for a shot at a precious Olympic bronze medal on Thursday (28 July) evening at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

While the 31-year-old Singaporean managed to nick the first set from Japan's world No.3 Mima Ito, she was unable to keep up with the home favourite, and eventually succumbed 1-4 (11-6, 8-11, 7-11, 7-11, 6-11) to lose her medalling chance.

Despite the loss, she was more upbeat than her semi-final defeat, where she teared up in the media mixed zone. She insisted the injury had no effect on her performance against Ito.

"I left it all on the court. Although I lost, I have no regrets," she told Yahoo News Singapore.

"When I came into this competition, I had wanted just to take it match by match, and see how far I could progress. Certainly I was quite pleased to have made it all the way to the top four, and be really consistent throughout the competition."

Ito thus added a bronze medal to her memorable mixed doubles gold, won with Jun Mizutani on Monday, which ended China's dominance in every Olympic table tennis competition since 2008.

Yu has never beaten Ito in their past three encounters in the International Table Tennis Federation competitions.

Thigh injury suffered in semi-final loss

Yu had suffered the thigh injury during her straight-sets semi-final loss to China world No.1 Chen Meng earlier on Thursday.

She pressed on after a length injury timeout, and while Chen proved too strong for her, there were fears that she could not play in the bronze-medal match. However, she insisted after the semi-final match that she would see through her memorable run at the competition. 

This is Yu's best showing at the Olympics, improving on her quarter-finals showing at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games and taking the limelight over her more illustrious teammate Feng Tianwei.

On Wednesday, she had stunned home favourite and world No.10 Kasumi Ishikawa 4-1 in the quarter-finals to book a place in the final four.

Ranked world No. 47, Yu began her singles campaign with a straight-sets victory against Portugal's Shao Jieni on Sunday. She then caused a minor upset in her next round on Tuesday morning by beating world No.8 Cheng I-ching of Taiwan, also in straight sets.

Barely hours later on Tuesday evening, Yu continued her superb form by defeating the United States' Liu Juan 4-2, setting up the quarter-final tie with Ishikawa.

Yu will next be focusing on the women's team competition, with Singapore facing France in the round of 16 on Monday.

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