SEA Games 2019

Golden day for Lien and family

Constance Lien made an early sweep before finishing off Vietnam's Nguyen Ngoc Tu with a submission choke in the jiu-jitsu Under-62kg final. PHOTO: SNOC
Constance Lien made an early sweep before finishing off Vietnam's Nguyen Ngoc Tu with a submission choke in the jiu-jitsu Under-62kg final. PHOTO: SNOC

Jiu-jitsu champ, 20, has potential to be world's best and role model, says coach

Eyes shut tight as she sat in the stands and prayed, Yuen Shuang Ching opened them only when she knew her daughter Constance Lien had won the jiu-jitsu Under-62kg SEA Games gold yesterday.

And then she beamed. Life had just come full circle for the 50-year-old, over three decades after she first competed in the Philippines.

At the 1981 Games in Manila, she was 13 when she made her debut in the 100m breaststroke and did not win a medal. But teammate and childhood rival Christina Tham did in the 4x100m medley.

While Tham, 38 years later and at the age of 50, made headlines last week with two underwater hockey team golds, Yuen retired and did not go to another Games.

But her family have produced another Games athlete - and a champion to boot. "I am just very proud of her, not just for her winning the medal but also for her fighting spirit and resilience," Yuen told The Straits Times yesterday.

The mother of two was "very frightened" her elder daughter would get hurt when she first switched from swimming to the combat sport.

She added: "But I was impressed by the fire in her, I can see her passion. All I want is to support her, help her fulfil her dreams."

That fire was evident against Vietnam's Nguyen Ngoc Tu yesterday, as Lien executed a sweep early before piling on the pressure and closing out the victory by submission with a bow-and-arrow choke.

She pointed skywards before dropping to her knees after her win, which was Singapore's 53rd and last gold of the Games.

Lien, 20, said: "I wasn't really thinking during my bout. I knew I had to go get work done, execute everything I've trained for.

"This time my training camp was very tough but I'm so thankful that my family, friends, teammates, my association and coaches at Evolve really helped me through it.

"This is my final goal of the year after the worlds and winning the gold really means a lot to me."

Lien has been one to watch after an impressive silver-medal debut at the 2018 Asian Games that earned her The Straits Times Star of the Month accolade.

In May, she was crowned the blue belt champion at the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu World Championships.

Evolve mixed martial arts instructor and Singapore coach Teco Shinzato said: "I truly believe she has the potential to be a black belt world champion some day.

"She has a lot to be proud of and I believe she will lead the charge and take jiu-jitsu to new levels for women in the sport in Asia."

A day earlier, Noah Lim, 17, won Singapore's first title in the men's U-62kg as jiu-jitsu made its debut at the biennial Games.

Kwan Yan Wei and Fiona Toh yesterday added bronzes in the men's U-77kg and women's U-55kg to take the tally from the squad of nine to two golds, one silver and four bronzes - third behind the Philippines (5-3-3) and Thailand (2-2-6).

Team manager and former national swimmer May Ooi believes the performance was a massive statement, saying: "We are not even a national sports association yet, we have zero funding. Compared with track and field, football, rugby and sailing, some of the traditional sports, we are coming home with seven medals. Two golds.

"This makes a huge statement for jiu-jitsu. The sport has a long way to grow and all we need is a good developmental plan for our grassroots.

"We created that pathway for them so the first step is the SEA Games and then the Asian Games."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2019, with the headline 'Golden day for Lien and family'. Print Edition | Subscribe