Korea have edge now but China are within reach

South Korea, with Lim Seung Min (left) aiming a strike at China's Gong Yu, proved stronger - for now - in the women's foil team final.
South Korea, with Lim Seung Min (left) aiming a strike at China's Gong Yu, proved stronger - for now - in the women's foil team final.ST PHOTO: JEREMY LIM

With six golds, six silvers and five bronzes, South Korea underlined their prowess at the Asian Fencing Championships (AFC), finishing the competition on top of the medal tally and looking like clear-cut contenders for next year's Olympics.

However, China, with an infusion of young blood, will be the side to watch at the 2020 edition.

Take the women's team foil competition for example.

The Korean team defeated the Chinese 35-32 in yesterday's final at the OCBC Arena and Korea's foil coach Choi Myung Jin remained confident that his ageing but experienced team still have the ability to perform in Rio de Janeiro next year.

However, he admitted that they are glancing over their shoulders, wary of the charge from China in the future.

TIME TO REFRESH LINE-UP

We have to be forward-looking and start focusing on our younger fencers with our current fencers already in their 30s. The 2020 Olympics could be a problem for Korea but we are looking at giving the younger ones a chance to step up.

CHOI MYUNG JIN, South Korea's foil coach

Speaking through a translator, Choi, 48, said: "It is always a tough match against China and they have been getting stronger each year.

"But we have to be forward-looking and start focusing on our younger fencers with our current fencers already in their 30s. The 2020 Olympics could be a problem for Korea but we are looking at giving the younger ones a chance to step up."

  • ASIAN FENCING CHAMPIONSHIPS

  • MEN'S TEAM SABRE

    Final

    South Korea bt Iran 45-37

    Third

    China bt Kazakhstan 45-30

    WOMEN'S TEAM FOIL

    Final

    South Korea bt China 35-32

    Third

    Hong Kong bt Japan 45-32

Korean foilist Jeon Hee Sook, 32, who will not compete in another Olympics after 2016, added: "We know that China are putting in their younger ones to give them experience and maybe Korea should give the younger fencers a chance too."

The Chinese foil team have an average age of 23, with Gong Yu, 19, and Le Huilin, 21, making their AFC debuts. Although inexperienced, the foilists contributed to China's haul of four golds, four silvers and two bronzes, with the nation finishing second in the medal standings.

China's national foil coach, Huang Liangcai, 31, said: "After the 2012 Olympics (China finished third with two golds and a bronze), we decided to rebuild a squad from younger fencers for the future.

"Korea have fencers who have been to two or three Olympics but our fencers have been to none. We lack experience at the moment but our fencers showed their potential against such an experienced team."

With the Rio Games a year away, Huang is confident that his charges will make an impression there before launching an all-out assault for medals in Japan.

He said: "It will be this team's first Olympics but we are targeting the 2020 Olympics for China to perform better than we did in 2012."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2015, with the headline 'Korea have edge now but China are within reach'. Print Edition | Subscribe