Korea, China Kazakh-stunned

Kazakhstan's Ruslan Kurbanov (right) on the attack against China's Dong Chao. The Central Asians prevailed 45-43 in the epee team final.
Kazakhstan's Ruslan Kurbanov (right) on the attack against China's Dong Chao. The Central Asians prevailed 45-43 in the epee team final.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Central Asians win men's epee but Koreans take women's sabre

IT WAS a day of upsets on the fourth day of the Asian Fencing Championships at the OCBC Arena as South Korea and Vietnam, respectively the Asian and South-east Asian powerhouses, suffered shock losses yesterday.

The South Korean men's epee team, ranked second in the world and the tournament's defending champions, fell to Kazakhstan, ranked 18th, in the semi-finals, losing 37-45.

The Kazakhs then survived a late scare to beat China 45-43 in the final to win the gold medal, while Japan inflicted a similar scoreline on the Koreans to finish third although both teams were awarded the bronze medal.

Elmir Alimzhanov said he did not expect the giant-killing act against the Koreans, whom he described as "very tough competition" but added that surgical strikes won the day for the Central Asians.

"We just wanted to be careful, more accurate with our attacks and take it point by point," said the Kazakh fencer.

"We were champions in 2013 as well, beating China, so we weren't that nervous in the final itself."

It was not total heartbreak for the South Koreans, as their women's sabre team beat China 45-34 in the final to win gold and avenge their loss last year.

Japan beat Hong Kong 45-42 for third place, although both received bronze medals.

South Korean fencer Lee Ra Jin was pleased with her team's straightforward win over China, saying: "China are one of our strongest rivals, we always meet them in the final.

"We went through lots of very hard training so I'm just very happy that we managed to get the win."

While the Korean men fencers kept mum after their stunning loss to Kazakhstan, Lee suggested that injuries forced them to bring a weakened side to this year's championships in Singapore.

In yesterday's other big upset, SEA Games women's sabre gold medallists Vietnam were stunned in the fifth-place match by Singapore, as the Republic came from behind to win 45-44.

In the SEA Games earlier this month, Vietnam defeated Singapore 45-36 in the semi-final.

As the Singapore team trailed 36-40 in the last round of the tie, 15-year-old Lau Ywen outscored her opponent, SEA Games individual sabre gold medallist, Nguyen Thi Le Dung, 9-4 to win the match for her team.

It was a nervy match, with both fencers having to go through video replays twice when the match was at 44-all, before a clean hit by SEA Games bronze medallist Ywen gave Singapore the win, to cheers from the home supporters.

They had also beaten the 2014 bronze medallists Kazakhstan, 45-43, in an earlier round for the fifth to eighth placings, which coach Andras Decsi called "wonderful".

Said the Hungarian: "This is our best-ever finish in the championships, so for such a young team, it is very impressive."

Calling the win a pleasant surprise, Ywen said: "I'm really proud of my team, this is the first time we have beaten Vietnam.

"We felt a bit nervous but we win or lose as a team so we just kept at it and never gave up."

isaacneo@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2015, with the headline 'KOREA, CHINA KAZAKH-STUNNED'. Print Edition | Subscribe