Battling the World's Best

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The past three months have been extremely eventful as we rounded off the FIE Senior Fencing Season with the Asian and World Championships, followed shortly by the Asian Games – a huge and spectacular event taking place only once every four years.

The Asian Championships was hosted by Bangkok in June this year, and Asgard was represented by Clive Leu, Lau Ywen and Ann Lee. In the preliminary rounds, Ywen won four out of six matches and Ann won two out of five. Clive also won two out of five matches in his poule, and all three of our fencers qualified for the direct elimination rounds.

Ann had to fence in the round of 64, where she came up against SEA Games Bronze Medallist Tonpan Pokeaw from Thailand. Unfortunately she came up just short, losing the bout 11-15. Clive also lost to Karan Singh from India 10-15 in the round of 64.

Ywen managed to secure a bye into the round of 32, where she came up against Jia Xiaoye from China. It was a close and exciting match and eventually Ywen edged the win 15-13, to set up a tantalizing encounter with the 2012 Olympic Champion, Kim Jiyeon of Korea. Ywen managed to push her hard in the first half, going into the break almost level at 7-8. However the opponent’s superior experience paid off as she switched tactics in the second half, and finished off with a 15-10 victory.

The Asian Championships were followed up a month later by the World Championships, held in Wuxi, China. This was only Ywen’s second appearance at the Senior World Championships, and she was anxious to do well, as her first attempt had been a nerve-wracking experience. Clive was first up to fence on the first day of the event and he did pretty well in his poules, winning three out of six matches. He was matched against experienced fencer Bazadze from Georgia in the first elimination round, and gave a good fight but lost 10-15.

In the Women’s Sabre event, Ann had a nervous start in a very tough poule, and unfortunately could not make it into the elimination rounds. Ywen had a great start and won five out of six bouts in her poule, directly qualifying into the round of 64. This was the first time a Singaporean fencer had done so for Women’s Sabre!

In the round of 64, Ywen was matched against one of the rising stars – Sofia Pozdniakova from Russia. Unfortunately her opponent was in top form that day, and in that match she was untouchable and dealt with Ywen easily. Pozdniakova’s good form continued for the rest of the day, and she emerged as the new World Champion of 2018!

Following the end of the World Championships, most of the fencers could begin their season break to recharge for the next season of fencing. Ywen however could only afford a week’s rest, before gearing up again for the final event of the season – the Asian Games 2018 in Jakarta. The Asian Games competition format only allows for the best two fencers from each country to participate, resulting in a highly competitive small pool of fencers, leaving no room for error on the day of competition.

Ywen had been assigned to a poule of only five fencers – which comprised another previous Cadet World Champion, an Asian Championship medallist, and a SEA Games medallist. It was the proverbial ‘Group of Death’ but Ywen survived it with two wins out of four bouts.

The first elimination round saw Ywen facing Tamura from Japan, one of the top seeded fencers at the Asian Games who was 18th in the world rankings at the end of the previous season. However Ywen had studied her opponent and planned how she would approach the match. She executed her plan well and had her opponent under control. Unfortunately the undesirable elements of sport became apparent as the referee made numerous controversial decisions in favour of the higher profile opponent. In the end, the only points awarded to Ywen throughout the bout were single lights, and it was impossible to win under such circumstances.

While the Asian Games may have ended on a bad note, it provided invaluable experience in terms of getting accustomed to major sporting events, as there is a unique environment and stress present here compared to the yearly fencing championship events. In the end, every experience, whether positive and negative, contributes to a fencer’s development and can only result in a better athlete, and a stronger person.

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