This time there was no flooding in Penampang to prevent me from arriving early – in fact there has been no major flood there since late 2008.
In the first round we were drawn with PST (a combination of 3 teams) and another team – which we easily disposed of. In my 25 years of playing table tennis, in singles or doubles, I had never blanked anybody, but this time, playing with Ornest in the officers’ category, the impossible happened.
One could argue that we had an easy draw, but our opponents in the quarterfinals, Sabah Credit Corporation (SCC), were quite a strong team, so after a bit of a struggle, we prevailed 3-1.
Then, in the semifinals, we had a surprisingly easy 4-0 win over Sabah Development Bank.
In the other semifinals, 5-times champion and perennial favourites MOF suffered yet another heartbreak when they were defeated by arch-rivals Borneo Housing (BH) 2-3. That moment when MOF’s open pair lost 2-3 to BH was the end – in the 5th and last leg, BH’s women doubles proved far too strong. To me, the MOF-BH match should’ve been the final – their matches have always been close. MOF went on to win bronze.
So, compared to 2008, we seemingly marched to the final with relative ease, until we met our nemesis of 2008 yet again in BH. They led 1-0 after Ornest and I were whitewashed 0-3 in our category, then Voo/Daniel had yet another titanic match-up with probably the same guys from 2008, losing the 5th rubber via deuce, after initially trailing 1-2 and pulling level. In the mixed doubles, Hadiran/Shirley still managed to win a set but in the end found the journey a step too far.
So, BH had already won 3-0 while our best combination, Sariwan-Arjuna were playing, and who again proved that they’re the best pair in the whole MoF fraternity when they defeated BH’s best pair in straight sets, thus remaining undefeated in the whole tournament. So final score was 4-1 to BH, identical to 2 years ago.
That means, right until the end, our women’s doubles never even needed to lift a bat, to which Chia readily agreed that it’s a case of “working smart” :-)
Looking back, I think our department’s ping pong standard is improving, since in 2006 we finished 3rd, which in living memory was the first medal we ever won for that sport. Then 2 years ago, in the semis we defeated SCC 3-2, whom we’d never beaten in previous tournaments, after trailing 1-2. This time, it was a fairly straightforward win.
Then there’s Shirley who proved to be an able paddler in her very first outing – she should’ve been in the team since years ago!
Our greatest challenge remains the same: to have the motivation to train and compete in other tournaments after this, and not wait another 2 years to do so!
And when it comes to cameras, our department’s posse of photogs is second to none – brandishing huge “weapons” dwarfing everybody else’s!
Finally, bringing gadgets, like your ipad, to sports event like this, when there are so many people around, are a no-no if you don’t have ipad insurance, the risk is just too great without it.