Wang eyes top-8 spot to qualify for Rio

HISTORY is again on national fencer Wang Wenying's radar as she eyes a spot at next year's Olympic Games in Rio.

The double SEA Games gold medallist, who earlier this month became Singapore's first individual champion in 26 years, will compete in the Asian Fencing Championships, which start tomorrow and end on Tuesday.

While powerhouses South Korea and China will take up a minimum of three of the 32 Olympic spots based on the world ranking of their fencers, there are at least another five places reserved for Asia based on zonal requirements.

The window closes next April and Wang, 34, could put herself in a strong position to qualify with a top-eight finish in the individual foil event on Saturday.

That, coupled with Hong Kong's Liu Yan Wai - Wang's closest rival in the race to Brazil - failing to make the final eight at the OCBC Arena, will see the Singaporean overtake Liu and establish a solid lead in the rankings.

Said Wang: "My confidence is high and hopefully I'll be able to maintain that momentum."

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 the 2012 London Olympics.

Unlike the World Cup and Grand Prix events which usually feature more than 100 fencers in each category and only the top-64 finishers are awarded points, regional tournaments like the Asian Championships are easier to navigate to earn points.

For instance, in Wang's foil category, there are only 49 participants. If she qualifies from the group stage - a relatively straightforward task for the 16th-ranked fencer in Asia - she will earn six points, double the three she has collected this season.

Noted national foil coach Simon Senft: "This is our best chance to get someone into the Olympics. There was a lot of hype about the SEA Games and our fencers did well but now they have to focus again."

The Republic's 24-man squad face world-class opposition though. Among the stars set to feature are Olympic champions Lei Sheng of China (men's individual foil), South Korean Kim Ji Yeon (women's individual sabre) and both countries' men's sabre and women's epee teams.

JONATHAN WONG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2015, with the headline 'Wang eyes top-8 spot to qualify for Rio'. Print Edition | Subscribe