Wang makes up for losses in both men's finals

ALL afternoon at the OCBC Arena Hall 2, triumphant cheers could be heard from the energetic crowd.

Rightly so, considering that three Singaporeans had made it into the fencing finals in each of their respective events - men's individual epee, men's individual sabre and women's individual foil.

But as Wang Wenying stepped onto the piste for the women's foil final, the once-boisterous crowd of over 600 had turned strangely muted.

Just a bout earlier, Singapore's top epee fencer, Lim Wei Wen, succumbed to Vietnam's Nguyen Tien Naht 8-15. These arch-rivals both earned bronzes at the Asian Games last year and had met twice previously, with both winning once each.

There was hope he would snag Singapore's first men's fencing gold at a SEA Games. But despite the packed hall cheering him on, the gold never came.

It was a blow to the fans and the Singapore camp.

Yet Wang knew better than to allow his loss to affect her. She knew the best way to get the crowd back on their feet was to stay calm, focus on her bout and win.

Standing at nearly 1.8m and towering a head above her opponent, Games debutante Tinio Justine Gail from the Philippines, she capitalised on her superior build and experience to win the match.

Wang said: "I didn't think too much (of Wei Wen's loss) even though I was aware. I knew I had a chance. I told myself to focus, calm down and get it point by point.

"I noticed that this girl is not very tall and since I am much taller, I may miss when attacking her. I felt that I was more confident relying on my defence so I told myself to continue with that all the way till the end."

Relying on a patient game plan, she waited and baited her opponent before going for the kill and eventually cruised to a 15-7 victory - a win which brought the cheers back.

The medal was all the more sweeter for Wang, a 2007 SEA Games gold medallist in the women's team foil, as it was her first individual Games gold.

"It is very special for me to win Singapore's first individual gold medal," said the 35-year-old fencing coach.

Her gold turned out to be the only one of the evening for the hosts, as Choy Yu Yong fell 11-15 to Vietnam's Vu Thanh An in the men's individual sabre final.

But the 17-year-old found some consolation in defeat.

Said the Hwa Chong Institution Year 6 student, who is taking his A levels this year: "This is definitely unexpected. I am a first-timer at the SEA Games and this is an extremely big stage for me."

With four medals to boast of - a bronze from Samson Lee in the men's individual epee, silvers from Lim and Yu Yong and a gold from Wang - the fencers have already bettered their 2011 Games haul of one silver and two bronzes.

It is a haul that Lim insists will get better.

Said Lim, who was visibly disappointed with his result: "I am very hungry for gold, especially here in Singapore, my home.

"My opponent caught me off guard and this is really not my best.

"There is a little bit of anger in me, but I am really happy for the winner.

"There is no excuse for my loss, I will come back stronger."

Then he added: "I want people to know that fencing is not just about poking, it is about fighting. We struggle and this is how we earn our victory."

chongcjy@sph.com.sg

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