Asian Games: Constance Lien wins silver medal in women's ju-jitsu, Singapore's first in the sport

Singapore's Constance Lien with her silver medal in the women's ju-jitsu 62kg category at the Asian Games in Jakarta on Aug 25, 2018.
Singapore's Constance Lien with her silver medal in the women's ju-jitsu 62kg category at the Asian Games in Jakarta on Aug 25, 2018.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Singapore's Constance Lien (top) competes against South Korea’s Sung Kira during the women's ju-jitsu 62kg match at the Asian Games in Jakarta on Aug 25, 2018.
Singapore's Constance Lien (top) competes against South Korea’s Sung Kira during the women's ju-jitsu 62kg match at the Asian Games in Jakarta on Aug 25, 2018.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

JAKARTA - Before Constance Lien arrived in Jakarta for the 18th Asian Games, where her sport ju-jitsu was making its debut, there was a first battle to fight: winning her mother's support for her pursuit of the sport.

The 19-year-old succeeded, and won four more fights yesterday to finish her Asiad outing with a silver medal at the Jakarta Convention Centre.

The sport is making its debut at the Asian Games and Lien's feat will ensure her place in Singapore's sporting history.

Despite losing 4-2 to South Korean world champion Sung Kira in the final of the women's Under-62kg event, Lien was pleased at her unexpected run to the final. Her previous best result in any event was a fourth-placed finish at the 2017 Abu Dhabi World Competition.

"I was trying to sweep (reverse Sung's grappling position) her, we were very close on points so I was trying to power through but I'm just glad I made it this far," she said.

The Singaporean, whose mother is former national swimmer Yuen Shuang Ching, started her sporting journey as a swimmer.

Stagnating times when Lien was 16 prompted her to take a break from swimming and upon discovering ju-jitsu, she fell in love.

But Yuen had objected at the beginning, worried about her daughter's safety in doing a combat sport.

Said Lien, a final-year student at Temasek Polytechnic: "For me to transition like that was a shock for her, and swimming and martial arts are totally different - one is a contact sport and one is a sport where I won't get hit or get bruises.

"I'm just glad I have her support now. She can see my love for ju-jitsu and how I've become a stronger person through it."

Ju-jitsu has required that Lien be patient and find different ways to win, and this is how she approaches life now.

"I'm the kind of person who is very fixated on doing things one way and when it doesn't work out, I break down," she explained. "But ju-jitsu has opened my mind and made me more flexible as a person, and (I learnt) that if something doesn't work, I don't need to break down, I just switch to something else."

She is a winner in her mother's eyes. Yuen, who was at the arena cheering her daughter on, told The Sunday Times: "I feel very inspired... I feel impressed because she's so dedicated to this sport and she's been balancing her schoolwork well and planning her schedule properly.

"I'm very proud of her."

She recalled "the shock of my life" when she first watched her daughter fight two years ago. The latter had won her 58kg category at the time and was competing in a division where fighters of all weights went head to head with one another. Lien's opponent was much bigger than she was and had picked her up. Yuen had been so worried, she stood up and tried to stop the fight while telling her younger daughter to call an ambulance.

Said the 49-year-old: "Constance eventually won but for a mother watching... after the fight, I told myself I'd better not embarrass her and just let her be.

"I didn't know whether to come (to Jakarta) and support her again, but she told me, 'Mummy you must be brave enough to watch, I want your support.'

"She's my little girl but she's such a strong woman, and I salute her."

Lien harbours dreams of one day becoming a world champion.

"(Ju-jitsu is) a sport I chose myself and it has given me confidence in the person I am," she added. "It teaches me how to fight for myself, (and) to be strong."

Singapore's tally at the 18th Asiad, which ends on Sept 2, stands at two gold, two silver and six bronze medals.

At the 2014 Incheon edition, Singapore's haul was five gold, six silver and 13 bronze medals.

The best performance came from the 2006 Doha Games with Singapore bagging eight golds, seven silvers and 12 bronzes.