Fresh from winning his first South-east Asia (SEA) Games gold medal in the men's individual epee event at the OCBC Arena yesterday, Vietnam fencer Nguyen Tien Nhat is eyeing a bigger prize.
The 25-year-old defeated local hopeful Lim Wei Wen 15-8 in the final yesterday.
"I'm very happy and proud to win Vietnam's first gold at the SEA Games, but this is not the end," Nguyen told The New Paper while wiping his brow after his win.
"I want to keep training hard and win again in Singapore at the Asian Championships."
The Asian Fencing Championships will be held from June 25 to 30, at the same venue.
In last year's edition of the continental meet, Nguyen finished seventh in the men's individual epee event.
He was on fire throughout yesterday, being the only one from 15 fencers to win all five of his pool matches in the morning.
He earned a bye into the quarter-final by virtue of being the top seed, where he comfortably saw off Indonesia's Muhammad Haerullah 15-8.
In the semi-finals, he soundly beat fifth seeded local fencer Samson Lee 15-9 to set up a final with Lim.
Despite Lim's best efforts to rally from a poor start to the day - he was ranked seventh after the pool matches, but bounced back in style to beat Thai second seed Naphat Klueanphet 15-13 in the semi-final - he was unable to avenge his compatriot's defeat.
In the final, the Nguyen raced into a 5-1 lead, and, although Lim reduced the deficit to two points at one stage, the Vietnamese proved too strong and eventually ran out a comfortable victor.
It is no surprise Nguyen knows Lim inside out.
After all, the duo spent a month training together in South Korea before the Games, as both Singapore and Vietnam chose to conduct their training camps there.
South Korea won eight of 12 gold medals at the Asian Games last September and are regarded giants of the continent.
Nguyen and Lim also both bagged bronze medals at last year's Asian Games, and had faced each other twice in competition before yesterday.
"Yes, we know a lot about each other," said Nguyen, with a smile.
"That training camp really helped me a lot. I gained experience and the competitive (edge)."
Lim graciously praised Nguyen, but also issued a warning.
"He caught me off-guard in the first round, gained confidence and then he really outplayed me," said Lim.
"I'm really happy for him. I lost, there's no excuse.
"But I'll come back stronger and harder. I'm not going to stop here. This will really motivate me.
"To my Vietnamese friend, congrats, but you better watch out, I'm coming back."
Lim thanked the "amazing" crowd and said: "My ankle and my knees started to give me problems, but... When I feel pain, you know what's the magic potion? I just look at the crowd. They are my painkillers.
"So I don't feel any pain now. But maybe I will two hours from now."
After he thanked the press and started making his way to the changing room, The New Paper asked 30-year-old Lim: So you'll be in Kuala Lumpur in 2017 for sure?
"Yeah man," he answered with a grin.
"I'll bring it (the gold medal) back."
This article was first published on June 4, 2015.
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