SINGAPORE - Esther Lai won Singapore's first-ever gold medal in the junior (Under-20) category at the ongoing Asian Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships on Wednesday (March 1).
In the women's junior epee final, the 16-year-old Raffles Institution year 5 student beat Japan's top junior fencer and reigning champion Miho Yoshimura 15-4.
Miho is ranked 16th in the world junior rankings, while Esther is ranked 76th.
Esther said: "It feels surreal that I've won. I felt a bit nervous because of the stress and expectations that I had put on myself. But I just wanted to focus on my fencing style and what I had to do.
"I knew that her (Miho's) defence is strong. So my coach (Fu Hao) told me to keep my distance with her well, wait for her to attack and then catch her off guard. It was a defensive style."
Esther also won the bronze in the Cadet (Under-17) individual event, and she won another bronze in the Cadet team competition earlier in the annual Feb 24 - March 5 meet held in Korat, Thailand.
Singapore are represented by a contingent of 39 athletes, and they had earlier won another four bronze medals in boys' individual foil (Darren Tan), girls' individual foil (Maxine Wong), girls' individual sabre (Lau Ywen) and girls' team sabre (Ywen, Nicole Goh, Nicole Wee and Lee Kar Moon).
The competition features more than 700 fencers from 27 Asian countries competing across both junior and cadet events.
At last year's edition held in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, Singapore returned home with three golds, three silvers and eight bronze medals.
Esther's victory follows Ywen's historic feat last April, when Ywen won Singapore's first fencing title on the world stage at the Fencing Cadet and Junior World Championships in Bourges, France.