Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop – Ywen’s remarkable return to the SEA Games

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A few months ago, we posted an article on the severe back injury suffered by Ywen, which prevented her from defending her World Championship title in April. At that time, the SEA Games was a mere six months away, and there were severe doubts on whether she would be able to return to fitness in time for the Games.

Six months on, Coach David and Ywen stepped into the MiTec Hall in Kuala Lumpur with a clear goal – to relish the experience of fencing competitively again, and to simply enjoy the feeling of physically being able to compete. Together, they were aware and recognizant of the fact that there had not been extensive preparation in terms of fencing training prior to the SEA Games, due to her recovery schedule. Yet they both also knew that much of the sport is about the battles in one’s mind, and the disciplined execution of tactical concepts.

The goal was not to match opponents physically, but to keep the mood as light and as positive as possible and fence smart. In the build-up to the SEA Games they played games and had light-hearted chats about tactics on top of the usual fencing training program. There was no talk of expectations or results, just a simple desire to compete.

On the day itself Ywen was calm and ready. She finished her preliminary poules with a perfect five victories, including a hard fought 5-4 win over her eventual final opponent, Pornsawan from Thailand. Seeded first after the poules, she received a by in the first round, before beating Nicanor from the Phillippines 15-6 to guarantee a medal.

With just two matches ahead against seasoned opponents, Coach David and Ywen spent the time verbally rehearsing the tactical routine, which Ywen would then visualise. The bout against Bui from Vietnam was going smoothly in Ywen’s favour at first, before there was a series of inexplicable calls which allowed the point gap to narrow. However, Ywen kept her nerve and made her actions clearer, finally pulling away to win 15-11.

Ywen’s final opponent was the Thai fencer Pornsawan from her poule. She had the highest world ranking entering the tournament but she was also someone whom Coach David and Ywen were familiar with. The match was a tight affair with points traded back and forth, but Ywen entered the break with a slim lead at 8-6. Shortly after the break Pornsawan took an injury timeout, but Ywen managed her focus and composure, holding on to the lead to finally cap her injury comeback with a 15-12 victory.

Although the magnitude of the win was certainly not on the same scale as her World Championship win, it felt equally sweet for different reasons - it erased the disappointments of the previous injury-plagued season, rewarded the perseverance and resilience shown in the past months, and gave invaluable affirmation for the season ahead.

In the words of Alfred (from Batman): “Why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

Congratulations Ywen!

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