Shin aims not to be foiled again

Korean epee fencer has got over controversial loss in London Olympics

Shin A Lam will be eager to impress at the Asian Fencing Championships in the run-up to next year's Olympics. Her strongest foe is likely to be China's Sun Yujie who won gold in the Asiad.
Shin A Lam will be eager to impress at the Asian Fencing Championships in the run-up to next year's Olympics. Her strongest foe is likely to be China's Sun Yujie who won gold in the Asiad.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

THE abiding images of the 2012 Olympics were not just of unfettered joy from triumphant athletes such as Jessica Ennis-Hill, Usain Bolt and Chad le Clos but also of deep sadness such as that for Shin A Lam.

For almost an hour, the South Korean fencer sat alone on the piste at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre, weeping as she waited for the judges' decision, in one of the biggest controversies at the London Games.

She thought she had beaten German defending champion Britta Heidemann in the individual epee semi-final but a time-keeping error led to the referee resetting the clock with one second left.

  • Fencing stars in Singapore

  • Asian Fencing Championships

    When: June 25-30

    Where: Singapore Sports Hub, OCBC Arena Hall 1

    Tickets: $30, buy on site.


    Some of the world-class fencers who are in town...

    South Korea

    • Kim Ji Yeon (2012 Olympic women's sabre champion)

    • Nam Hyun Hee (2008 Olympic women's foil silver, 2012 Olympic team foil bronze)

    • Jeon Hee Sook (2012 Olympic women's team foil bronze)

    • Gu Bon Gil, Won Woo Young, Kim Jung Hwan, Oh Eun Seok (2012 Olympic men's team sabre champion, 2014 world men's team silver)


    • Chen Haiwei, Ma Jianfei, Shi Jialuo (2014 world men's team foil silver)

    • Sun Yujie (2012 Olympic women's epee bronze, team gold)

    • Xu Anqi (2012 Olympic women's team epee gold)

    • Lei Sheng (2012 Olympic men's foil champion, 2014 world men's team foil silver)


    • Yuki Ota (2008 Olympic men's foil silver, 2012 Olympic team foil silver)

    • Suguru Awaji, Kenta Chida, Ryo Miyake (2012 Olympic team foil silver)

Heidemann then scored the crucial point to advance while a disconsolate Shin went on to lose the bronze-medal match to China's Sun Yujie.

Three years after the incident, her supporters back home still stop her on the streets to offer their sympathy and encouragement.

While Shin did not return home empty-handed as she later bagged a silver in the team event - she rejected the International Fencing Federation's offer of a special medal as a consolation prize - her memories of her first Summer Games were tinted with an overriding sense of what might have been, she told The Straits Times yesterday.

The 28-year-old said via a translator: "I've already experienced the worst thing that could happen to me so I'm not afraid of any other hardships.

"It took a while but I learnt to be calm and I was able to find peace.

"It does feel like a burden as everyone still talks about that moment. There are a lot of expectations on me but it also motivates me to work harder for the next Olympics."

For Shin, the road to Rio begins at this week's Asian Fencing Championships in Singapore.

The six-day competition at the OCBC Arena, which starts tomorrow, acts as the Asian zonal qualifier for the 2016 Games in Rio.

Victory for Shin will strengthen her chances of securing a spot in Brazil.

Ranked fourth in the world, she will be in action on Friday and start as favourite to secure a second Asian title. Her strongest challenger comes in the form of world No. 7 Sun, who narrowly beat Shin to the gold medal at last year's Asian Games in Incheon.

Preparations for the 24-man Korean squad have been smooth and they are confident of repeating their nine-gold haul from the previous edition on home soil, said the national team's general manager Ahn Sang Yong.

For Shin, the 2012 champion and 2014 runner-up, her focus is fixed only on Olympic medals.

She said: "I have one but I want more. The team event is separate from the individual.

"It does not make up for losing in the (individual) semi-finals."

Hopefully, Rio will see her shedding tears of joy, instead of tears of despair.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2015, with the headline 'SHIN AIMS NOT TO BE FOILED AGAIN'. Subscribe