Fencing: Decsi to coach Olympic champ

Despite his decision to return to his native Hungary, Singapore sabre fencing coach Andras Decsi says he will definitely continue to help the Republic's fencers in their careers.
Despite his decision to return to his native Hungary, Singapore sabre fencing coach Andras Decsi says he will definitely continue to help the Republic's fencers in their careers.ST FILE PHOTO

Sabre fencing coach quits S'pore to shape fellow Hungarian's Rio Games strategy

He is widely-credited as one of the coaches who have helped Singapore fencing rise up in stature in recent years.

But when an Olympic champion from national sabre fencing coach Andras Decsi's home nation comes calling, the Hungarian just could not say no to the offer.

The 38-year-old, who was hired by Fencing Singapore (FS) in 2012, will leave his post this week after being approached by 2012 London Olympics sabre gold medallist Aron Szilagyi to coach him ahead of next year's Rio de Janeiro Games.

Decsi, 38, told The Straits Times: "Aron and I had spoken a few times when I took the Singapore team to Hungary to train with their national team, but we were not that close.

"So I was very shocked when he called late last month and asked if I could help prepare him for Rio."

NOT AN EASY DECISION

Of course it will be difficult to leave Singapore. It's a wonderful place... but my home country was calling, and it was to help a fellow Hungarian fencer.

ANDRAS DECSI, outgoing Singapore national sabre fencing coach

Decsi said he would have liked to see out his contract with FS, which ends next year, but the opportunity to train Szilagyi was too good to refuse. His resignation was accepted by FS.

The former world Under-17 champion said: "Of course it will be difficult to leave Singapore. It's a wonderful place, I have a good relationship with my colleagues and athletes, and my son wasborn here.

"But my home country was calling, and it was to help a fellow Hungarian fencer. I felt that in this situation, I should help if I can."

FS general manager Chong Yi Mei said: "We are sad to see him leave but also happy that he has been offered the opportunity of a lifetime to be the coach of the 2012 Olympics sabre gold medallist Aron Szilagyi.

"We wish him all the best and we truly appreciate his contribution towards fencing in Singapore."

FS added that it has already started searching for Decsi's successor.

Under the Hungarian, the sabre fencers won three silvers at the Commonwealth Fencing Championships in Scotland last November, as Singapore finished top of the medal table with a record haul of four golds, four silvers and two bronzes.

His charges also won one silver and three bronzes at June's SEA Games - which Decsi said was the highlight of his stint. In 2011, the last time fencing was featured at the meet, there were no sabre medals won.

Sabre fencer David Chan, who came out of retirement when Decsi came on board, said his mentor had "transformed the level of fencing here with his world-class coaching methods and ideas".

Chan, who retired after winning a bronze at the SEA Games and is coaching now, said: "It's a huge loss for the fencing community, but we know it's a huge honour for him to coach an Olympic champion.

"Right now, I hope that Fencing Singapore can maintain the momentum and build on the foundation that he has created."

As for his plans for Szilagyi, Decsi said the priority would be to add more moves to his repertoire to make the Olympic champion less predictable.

He said: "After he became Olympic champion, everyone studied him because they wanted to beat him, so it would be helpful to have some fresh moves and ideas.

"He won the European Championships in June so he is in good shape and form."

The father of two was keen to stress this is not the end of his relationship with Singapore fencers.

Decsi, who will leave on Saturday, said: "I made it clear to my fencers that I will always try to help them. If they are looking at training opportunities in Hungary, or for any other help, I will definitely try to help them continue this journey.

"I really love this place, and this is a part of my life which will always be in my heart."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2015, with the headline 'Decsi to coach Olympic champ'. Print Edition | Subscribe