INCHEON, South Korea - When first approached to take up fencing as a sport, Lim Wei Wen's first thought was: "Can building fences even be a sport?"
The 29-year-old laughed yesterday when he recalled his initial clueless impression of the sport, which gave him an unexpected but cherished Asian Games bronze medal in Incheon.
It was a nine-year journey from when he first picked up fencing at ITE Balestier to when he reached the semi-finals of the men's individual epee competition at the Goyang Gymnasium.
As there were no third-place play-offs in fencing at the Asiad, Lim - who won a silver and a bronze at the 2007 SEA Games - was guaranteed a bronze when he beat Nicola Lu of Hong Kong 15-11 in the quarter-finals.
Although he was thrashed 6-15 by eventual gold medallist Jung Jin Sun of South Korea in the last four, he wore a wide grin as he recalled a day when nearly everything he trained for went right.
"My coach Fu Tao and I had trained for nearly nine months together, and all we thought of was making progress, slowly but surely," he said.
"We took care of the details, worked extremely hard, and today I felt that I could pull off everything I wanted to do.
"It was like a dream, you know?"
It was also a dream come true for the Singapore fencing fraternity, as Lim landed the sport's first-ever Asian Games medal.
Said Fencing Singapore president Juliana Seow: "Winning an Asian Games medal is something we have been working very hard to achieve in the last few years, and I'm glad that this medal is also a first for Singapore at this Games.
Seeded 18th, Lim scraped through the opening pool round with three wins and three losses to face compatriot Samson Lee in the first knockout round of 32.
He beat Lee 15-13 and faced second-seeded Aleksandar Roman of Uzbekistan. There he pulled off his first big upset of the competition, winning 15-8 to advance into the quarter-finals.
Against Lu, ranked seventh, he again showed that he was the in-form fencer, winning 15-11 to the delight of his coach Fu.
"He has shown that he is reaching that level of excellence where he can beat anyone on his day," Fu said. "All he needs is a little belief in himself and I hope this tournament will give him plenty of encouragement."
Although he faltered against the veteran Jung in the semi-finals, Lim said: "I'm still in love with the sport. I feel I can fence for the next five years, even 10."
Lim also thanked his ITE Balestier coach, Sugumar D, who first showed him that fencing is not about building wooden barricades.
"I was interested in playing tennis before, but he showed me the beauty of this sport, and he showed faith in me. For that I'm forever grateful," Lim said.
When contact by The Sunday Times, coach Sugumar was just as overjoyed as his protege, saying: "I'm very proud of him. He was a very hard-working boy, always willing to learn from mistakes.
"I knew he would go on to have a good career, but this medal was a pleasant surprise. Looks like I will have to give him a treat for that."
This article was first published on Sept 21, 2014.
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