So close, yet so far

A shocker looked on the cards.

Singaporean fencer Choy Yu Yong, 17, was leading 2011 South-east Asia (SEA) Games silver-medallist Vu Thanh An 8-7 in the men's individual sabre final yesterday.

Alas, it wasn't meant to be for the SEA Games debutant.

His inexperience ultimately told, as he went down 11-15 to let the gold medal slip from his grasp at the OCBC Arena.

But Choy was in no mood to sulk.

In the first place, the second-year junior college student from Hwa Chong Institution didn't think he would make it this far.

"I did not expect to make it to the final, because this is my first time at the SEA Games," he told The New Paper yesterday.

"I came up against a strong opponent and fought all the way to the last point."

Choy had earlier laboured through a tense semi-final match to beat Thailand's Wiradech Kothny 15-12.

On the other hand, Vu, ranked 55th in the world, had breezed into the gold-medal match.

After dismantling Singapore's Clive Leu (15-5) in the quarter-finals, the Vietnamese comfortably beat Malaysian Yu Peng Kean 15-4 in his last-four tie.

Choy knew he had a tough task on his hands.

Only last year, he had lost to Vu in the Asian Fencing Championships, so he already knew what was in store.

What he didn't count on, however, was taking the lead against the favourite at the halfway mark.

But the 22-year-old Vietnamese rallied to score a four-point streak after the break with successive quick attacks to break down Choy's defence.

The Singaporean said that was the turning point of the match.

He said: "After the break, my opponent sort of figured me out and I was slow to change my style. He was constantly attacking and putting me on the defence, which is worse for me, especially in sabre fencing.

"I lost four points in a row and that was what cost me the match."


Meanwhile, Vu was exhilarated to win the gold medal after a four-year wait. Fencing was not included at the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar.

"I was so focused on winning this year that two months before the Games started, I was already starting to feel nervous every morning about competing here," he said.

Vu added that he capitalised on Choy's repetitive moves to turn the game around after the break.

The Vietnamese will be competing in Singapore again at the end of this month at the Asian Fencing Championships, but he has set himself a bigger goal.

"I want to compete in the Olympics next year," he said.

This article was first published on June 4, 2015.
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