SEA Games: Singapore's Jonathan Au Eong wins historic gold in men's individual foil

National fencer Jonathan Au Eong beat Filipino Nathaniel Perez 15-7 in the final to clinch the gold medal. PHOTO: SINGAPORE NATIONAL OLYMPIC COUNCIL

HANOI - It may have taken fencer Jonathan Au Eong four years to make his first major Games appearance, but he more than made up for the delay on Sunday (May 15) by clinching a historic gold medal in the men’s individual foil at the SEA Games.

At the My Dinh Indoor Games Gymnasium, he beat Filipino Nathaniel Perez 15-7 to win Singapore’s first title in the event.

The country’s previous best result in the men’s foil had been silvers in 1989 and 1991 and Au Eong marked his achievement by hugging coach Simon Senft after he left the piste.

“It’s been something I’ve been working towards since 2018 – I’d always be close to making the team but I was always missing out by one or two spots. To be here today, it’s an amazing feeling,” said Au Eong, who had even entertained the thought of quitting the sport after several disappointments.

“It was always narrow misses and it was heartbreaking because I felt I put in a lot of effort to try and qualify for these Games, but my mentality was that I would try working hard for these Games and it would eventually pay off.”

Despite it being his first SEA Games, the 21-year-old, who has been part of the national set-up since he was 15, was not overawed.

He said: “In my mind, these are people I’ve seen fencing for a long time and even though I didn’t attend previous Games, I always heard about how they did well. I tried not to let their past achievements daunt me, I just said that’s not something I can control and I just focused on myself.”

Getting the gold was also significant for Au Eong, who did not have an easy lead-up to Hanoi. The third-year student at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine had been juggling training with his dermatology posting at the National Skin Centre, which required some sacrifices.

He said: “Juggling fencing and my university work has been quite difficult and there have been times when I was considering whether it was worth it. It means a lot that my hard work... paid off.”

What made his win even more special was the presence of his parents, Helen and Kah Guan, in the stands. They had booked their plane tickets only on Friday night as they were not sure if spectators were allowed at the regional meet.

But once they knew, Helen, whose new passport was not ready, queued at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority Building from about 10am to 6pm on Friday.

Thankfully, the 55-year-old, who often travels to watch her son at overseas competitions, was able to get her passport and book tickets on time. 
On why it was important for them to support their son in person, the healthcare administrator said: “We want to be here to share these proud moments with him.”

Singapore’s Jessica Ong bagged the silver in the women’s sabre individual event earlier on Sunday after losing 15-11 to Vietnam’s Bui Thi Thu Ha in the final, with teammate Jolie Lee snagging a joint-bronze

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