SEA Games 2017

Lim, seeking redemption, won't mask pain of 2015 loss

Fencer Lim Wei Wen, 32, promised himself that he would compete at a fourth SEA Games the moment Singapore lost the team epee final to Vietnam by the narrowest of margins in 2015.
Fencer Lim Wei Wen, 32, promised himself that he would compete at a fourth SEA Games the moment Singapore lost the team epee final to Vietnam by the narrowest of margins in 2015.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

When national fencer Lim Wei Wen suits up for the epee competition today, memories of the last SEA Games will be fuelling him.

He remembers it like it was yesterday. With only the pistes in the OCBC Arena lit, he could not see the stands, but he could hear the thunderous cheers coming from it. Strangers - some who did not even understand his sport - passionately shouted his name like he was family, egging him on as he fought.

He remembers vividly how that day in early June ended too. After a laborious comeback to tie the match at 43-all, he lost the next point, giving the team epee gold to Vietnam.

Crouched over, his face buried in his hands, all he could do then was weep. It would have meant the world to him to win a first SEA Games title, especially on home soil. Instead, he felt like the culprit responsible for being second-best.

"I felt 100 per cent responsible," he told The Straits Times before leaving for the ongoing Games in Kuala Lumpur. "Like I had let my country down."

That moment was the turning point in a fencing career that has spanned 12 years. It changed what - and who - he competes for.

He never believed in the "myth" of home advantage until he experienced first-hand the "positive energy" that emitted from the stands.

Lim, who has three silvers and a bronze from three SEA Games, recalled: "I walked out, and I threw away my ego. I realised I have been so selfish in the past - I was fencing and going to competitions for myself. Then I saw the bigger picture and now I want to do it for my people."

By his own admission, the devastating loss in 2015 could have easily meant calling a day on his sporting career. Now 32, he has few regrets, especially after becoming the first Singaporean to win an Asian Games medal (an individual epee bronze) in 2014.

He said: "It fired me up. It made me even hungrier, made me want that gold medal. When I lost that point, I thought immediately that I'm going to come back."

His mission these days is to use sports as a platform to show the world the mettle and strength of his country.

He said: "The reason Singapore is successful as a country is not because we're clean or safe. It's because we don't give up.

"I want the world to see that there is someone in this country who is a fighter, someone whom Singaporeans can be proud of. Even if I don't get a good result this time, I'll still fight on. I won't give up."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2017, with the headline 'Lim, seeking redemption, won't mask pain of 2015 loss'. Print Edition | Subscribe