THE opening day of the Asian Fencing Championships threw up two stunning upsets at the OCBC Arena yesterday.
In the women's individual sabre competition, South Korea's Olympic gold medallist and defending champion Kim Ji Yeon was ousted 15-14 by China's Shen Chen in the semi-finals.
Yet, that upset hardly prepared the 600-strong spectators for an even bigger shock in the men's individual epee final, as world No. 6 Park Kyoung Doo of South Korea, the top-ranked fencer in the competition, succumbed 10-11 to China's world No. 107 Jiao Yunlong in the final.
A jubilant Jiao roared in triumph as he ran across the piste, celebrating an unlikely win especially after he suffered leg cramps that stopped the final match for about 10 minutes.
He said: "The cramp threatened to come back while I was in the final point, and Park sensed an opening and lunged in. Somehow, I got the winning point in the end, I did not expect to win at all."
A disconsolate Park declined to speak to the media after the loss.
Jiao had already scored upset wins en route to the final, beating compatriot and world No. 99 Li Guojie 4-2 in the quarter-finals, as well as Japan's world No. 26 Minobe Kazuyasu in the semi-finals.
His win meant China were double winners on the opening day, after his compatriot Shen took the women's sabre title to add to her scalp of Kim.
Kim, ranked world No. 10, failed to take advantage of an early lead over world No. 17 Shen, who struck the final blow when the score was tied at 14-14, which left her opponent kneeling on the piste in despair.
Kim admitted later that she was not at full fitness. She said via a translator: "I am disappointed with the result but I accept it. I had an old hip injury that flared up during the opening stages and it affected my performance."
Shen went on to clinch the title, beating Japan's Chika Aoki 15-7 in the final.
Clutching her first gold medal of the championships, Shen, who has two bronzes from her other outings in 2013 and 2014, believed that the result was not a surprise.
Speaking in Mandarin, she said: "I have been improving over my past two years of training and have played against Kim a couple of times. There isn't much that separates our performance.
"But today's result shows that my hard work has paid off, and I hope we can get a team gold at the end of this competition."
Despite being unable to keep her individual title, Kim is determined to help South Korea retain their team title on Sunday.
Singapore's trio of Sharmaine Cheung, Ywen Lau and Ann Lee were unable to progress past the round of 32 of the competition.
Lau lost 9-15 to South Korea's Hwang Seo Na, Cheung 6-15 to China's Yin Haiyun and Lee 6-15 to Hong Kong's Jenny Ho.
In the men's epee, Lim Wei Wen and Samson Lee (on a bye) made it past the first round of preliminaries but fell in the second.
Lim lost 11-15 to Park while Lee wad edged out 10-9 by Vietnam's Truong Tran Nhat Minh.
Justin Lim and Zachary Chen failed to advance past the first round.
Asian Fencing Championships
Final: Jiao Yunlong (Chn) bt Park Kyoung Doo (Kor) 11-10
Final: Shen Chen (Chn) bt Chika Aoki (Jpn) 15-7
TODAY (selected names)
- 9am (poules): World No. 5 Ma Jianfei (Chn), No. 16 Yuki Ota (Jpn), No. 17 Chen Haiwei (Chn), No. 18 Heo Jun (Kor), Kevin Jerrold Chan (Sin), Justin Ong (Sin), Joshua Ian Lim (Sin), Jet Ng (Sin).
- T64-T8: 11.30pm
- Finals: 7 to 8.20pm
- Noon (poules): World No. 4 Shin A Lam, No. 7 Sun Yujie (Chn), No. 9 Choi In Jeong (Kor), No. 9 Shimookawa Ayaka (Jpn), Cheryl Lim (Sin), Victoria Lim (Sin), Rania Rahardja (Sin), Elizabeth Lim (Sin)
- T64-T8: 2.30pm
- Finals: 7.30 to 8.40pm
Venue: OCBC Arena Hall 1
Tickets ($30 each) will be sold on-site. Passion card-holders enjoy a 30 per cent discount.