SINGAPORE – They were so close to ending a seven-year medal drought – only to fall short by the slimmest of margins.
Seeking Singapore’s first medal at the Asian Fencing Championships (AFC) since 2010, the women’s foil team came agonisingly close on Monday afternoon (June 19) in a 43-44 quarter-final loss to Hong Kong.
Comprising Nicole Wong, Amita Berthier, Lau Ysien and substitute Tatiana Wong, the team fought back from 42-43 down to tie the match but succumbed by a point in sudden death against the hosts.
Wong, 19, gave Singapore hope by tying the match at 43-all with just three seconds remaining against Lin Po Heung, a two-time Olympian (2012, 2016). That sent the tie to sudden death, where she was edged by Lin.
In the subsequent placing match, Singapore beat Taiwan 45-34 to finish fifth in the event for a fifth consecutive championships.
A semi-final berth would have guaranteed a joint-bronze medal for Singapore, whose last AFC medal was won by the women’s foil team in 2010 when they finished fourth.
Still, it was a valiant showing against stronger and more experienced opponents. The Republic are ranked 22nd in the world, ten places below Hong Kong. Individually, Wong (92), Amita (137) and Lau (161) are also below Liu Yan Wai (72), Lin (81) and Vanessa Cheung (89), while Singapore’s average age is 18 compared to Hong Kong’s 27.3.
“I thought today, we could do (win) it,” Wong told TODAY over the phone. “It is disappointing and we are not satisfied, but every year we are getting closer. We worked really well and I am very proud of the team.”
Wong, who gave Japan’s world no. 22 Shiho Nishioka a fright before losing 14-15 in their round of 16 clash in the individual foil event, was also emboldened by the foil team’s performances.
“I feel now we are at a level to say that we (are not satisfied that we) lost and I’m not happy with the (individual) loss at all,” she declared.
“Having this mindset shows we are going up (in the world) and getting more exposure.”
Amita, who won an individual bronze in the cadet (Under-17) foil at the world championships earlier this April, exited in the round of 32 but felt similarly optimistic.
“Our team are all still juniors (U-20)… that we lost only by one is encouraging,” the 16-year-old said.
“Everybody played their part, communicated very well and the team spirit was strong, it was just unfortunate we lost.
“Reaching the 32 for me is very good, I had a very strong pool… this is my first junior year. It’s better than what I expected and had set out to do.”
Both Wong and Amita have been selected to represent Singapore at the SEA Games and are gunning for podium finishes in the individual women’s foil event. There are no team events in Kuala Lumpur.
“The last edition (in 2015) was my first time and I got (into the) top eight, this time I’ll be more experienced and am hoping to medal,” said Wong, who has been based in the United States for the last two years and will start her freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania after the Games.
Amita, who trains in Boston under former Olympic silver medallist Ralf Bissdorf and is hoping to enrol in the University of Notre Dame, added: “Nicole and I are very confident of (doing well at) the SEA Games, if we continue working really hard, we will reach our goals.”
Wong’s round of 16 achievement is the joint-best individual showing so far for Singapore at this AFC, with Cheryl Lim also reaching the same stage in the individual women’s epee event.
The men’s sabre and women’s epee teams will be in action on the final day of the competition on Tuesday (June 20) in the last opportunity for Singapore to win a medal.