HANOI - The roars of the home crowd at the My Dinh Indoor Games Gymnasium had reached fever pitch with just over 19 seconds on the clock, as the scoreboard for the men’s epee final read: Vietnam 36 Singapore 34.
Fencing for a third consecutive title, Vietnam looked set to wrap up the win on Tuesday (May 17), but their rivals had other plans.
It was down to the heroics of Singaporean fencer Simon Lee – who had earlier brought the scores level – as the 19-year-old rescued two points to force sudden death.
He kept his cool to clinch the winning point (37-36) and claim Singapore’s first-ever gold in the event, sparking an outburst of emotion as he sank to the ground while teammates Samson Lee, Sito Jian Tong and Elliot Han piled on top of him in celebration.
“I was just thinking this is a do-or-die situation, this is make or break, I cannot regret anything I do here – it’s either I get the point or he gets the point. I just took a deep breath and did what I had to do,” said Simon, who also won a joint-bronze in the individual event.
“I just focused on how I would get the point rather than the outcome of the point and I think that really helped me stay calm and focused throughout the entire bout.”
The final was a nervy affair, with Singapore keeping the pressure on Vietnam.
Jian Tong took the lead briefly in the seventh bout, which ended with the score level at 30-30.
Their rivals surged ahead in the next bout before Lee turned the tables on the hosts.
Jian Tong, 18, admitted that the loud cheers from the home crowd were a challenge.
He said: “Of course it’s not as easy playing on the away ground because they have many supporters and they were very loud, which could be distracting at times, but I just had to get my focus back. I tried to use the loud cheering as my motivation.”
For 33-year-old Samson, who was competing at his fifth SEA Games, yesterday’s achievement was extra special.
At the 2015 and 2019 editions, he and his teammates had to settle for silver, but that only fuelled his ambition to get that elusive gold.
An elated Samson credited team spirit for their win. He said: “We always had a lead, but we lost it towards the end.
“Even as my teammates changed, I still held on because I believed that we could make it and I really wanted to make it happen and finally today it happened.”
There was double joy on the piste On Tuesday as the women’s foil fencers retained their team title.
The quartet of Denyse Chan, Cheung Kemei, Chloe Ng and Maxine Wong, who bagged a silver in the individual event last Saturday, defeated the Philippines 33-28 in the final.
Wong said: “We are very happy to defend the gold. It was not easy to get here and I’m glad that we overcame the tough bout.”