Meritorious Service Medal for Olympic medal-winning paddlers
25 August 2008 2240 hrs (SST)
SINGAPORE: Singapore's Olympic medal-winning team returned home to a rousing welcome on Monday.
Some 300 well-wishers were at the Changi Airport to cheer Li Jiawei, Feng Tianwei and Wang Yuegu. They had broken Singapore's 48-year-old Olympic medal drought by winning the silver medal in the women's team table tennis final.
After the cheering welcome, the athletes were whisked onto an open-top bus for a tour of the city to showcase their medals.
When the entourage arrived at Raffles City, there were another 500 people to greet them. The route also included Geylang Serai and Orchard Road.
"(I) felt very emotional and touched, with so many people supporting (me). I am very grateful," said Feng.
"I don't think age is a problem. 2012 (Olympics) is just 4 years away, I think I will take a break for a while and reconsider 2012," said Li.
The women's table tennis team will be conferred the Meritorious Service Medal by the Singapore government.
The award was last given to swimmer Joscelin Yeo, in 2006, and before that, in 1962, to Tan Howe Liang, whose weightlifting silver from the 1960 Rome Games had been Singapore's only Olympic medal before the table tennis team's achievement.
The authorities will also intervene in the coach-and-manager saga, where the Singapore Table Tennis Association's president Lee Bee Wah had said the officials will not be retained.
"I am very concerned with the way it is spinning out of control because I don't want a situation where people say things or do things which destroy relationships," said Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports.
Away from the controversy, the government is looking at building on the momentum of the victory in Beijing. A more integrated approach will be taken to groom athletes for future events, including London Olympics 2012.
A CNA video of their return to Singapore, getting onto an open-top Hippo bus for the Victory Parade as well as the celebrations at Raffles City.
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"Eager crowds at Raffles City giving Team SIngapore a warm welcome home yesterday. It was an afternoon of acclaim for the athletes who received rapturous greetings right from their arrival at Changi Airport. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN"
"Table tennis team manager Anthony Lee and IOC executive board member from Singapore Ng Ser Miang (back to camera) share a moment of triumph and a hug. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE"
"It is a bittersweet welcome for head coach Liu Guodong, who, along with the paddlers' team manager, is uncertain whether he will still be with the athletes on their next Olympic adventure. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE"