Double SEA Games gold medallist Wang Wenying's quest to become the first Singapore fencer to qualify for the Olympics has been dealt a heavy blow following her defeat at the Asian Fencing Championships (AFC).
She lost 8-15 to Hong Kong's Lin Po Heung in the round-of-16 of the women's individual foil event, and missed out on her target of a top-eight finish yesterday.
It meant that Lin has leapfrogged compatriot Liu Yan Wai and Wang in the race to claim one of the two coveted spots reserved for Asia in next year's Games.
ASIAN FENCING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Final: Kim Jung Hwan (Kor) bt Gu Bon Gil (Kor) 15-14
Final: Jeon Hee Sook (Kor) bt Nam Hyun Hee (Kor) 12-11
Women's team sabre
9am (T16 classification): 11 countries, including world No. 6 South Korea, No. 7 China, No. 12 Japan, No. 15 Hong Kong, No. 18 Kazakhstan, No. 30 Singapore.
Finals: 5 to 5.30pm
Men's team epee
10.45am (T32 classification): 17 countries, including world No. 2 South Korea, No. 15 Japan, No. 17 China, No. 18 Kazakhstan, No. 22 Kyrgyzstan, No. 41 Singapore.
Finals: 5.30 to 6.30pm
Final timings subject to delays
Men's team foil
3.30pm (T32 - one match, continues tomorrow)
June 25-30, OCBC Arena Hall 1.
Tickets ($30 each) will be sold on site. Passion-card holders enjoy a 30 per cent discount.
Lin, who competed at the 2012 London Games, later fell 13-15 to 2014 Asian Games silver medallist Le Huilin of China in the quarter-finals, but still earned 21 world ranking points for her run.
She has a total of 23 points and holds a commanding lead over Liu (16 points) and Wang (15), both of whom picked up 12 points after reaching the last 16.
Japan's Shiho Nishioka, who has 17 points, is favoured to take the other spot in Rio.
This was Wang's fifth straight defeat by Lin. The 34-year-old had scored the first point but eventually could not cope with Lin's superior speed and tactics.
The first game ended with Lin leading 5-2 and she stretched that advantage to 10-4 by the end of the next game, as Wang struggled to find any rhythm in her attacks.
Said the Singaporean: "I was rushing too much and made some mistakes early on and allowed her to build up a nice lead.
"After that, she played a defensive game and forced me to attack, which isn't my normal style."
With 10 months of the qualifying window remaining, there is still time to claw back the difference in ranking points.
However, regional meets like the AFC offer Wang - who belongs in the region's second tier, below those from powerhouses South Korea, China and Japan - an easier opportunity to gain ranking points.
Yesterday's women's foil event, for instance, had 48 fencers. The major World Cup and Grand Prix events attract more than 150 fencers for each category. Only the top 64 finishers are awarded points.
Said Wang, who also lost to Nishioka in the morning poules round: "It's not over, but it's much tougher to win an Olympic spot now."
No local fencer has ever competed at the Summer Games. The closest was Ruth Ng, who fell at the final hurdle of the Asian and Oceanic zone qualifiers for London.
Wang will compete at next month's World Championships in Moscow and hopes to reduce the deficit on her Hong Kong rivals then.
After two days of drawing blanks, South Korea finally secured their first golds at the OCBC Arena, with all-Korean finals in both the men's sabre and women's foil yesterday.
Second seed Kim Jung Hwan denied world No. 1 Gu Bon Gil a fourth straight Asian men's sabre title with a 15-14 victory.
And in a repeat match-up of last year's women's foil final, Jeon Hee Sook reversed last year's result and beat Nam Hyun Hee 12-11.
Said Kim: "It was very important for us to start winning again. Our sabre team are very strong and this will boost everyone's confidence for the rest of the competition."