Debutante Ywen secures sabre bronze
Sabre fencer Ywen, 15, earns a bronze on her SEA Games debut
At 15, she was the youngest competitor on the piste.
And Ywen Lau proved that age and size did not matter, as she powered her way as the top-ranked player in the preliminary round to claim the joint-bronze medal for the women's individual sabre yesterday.
Although she narrowly missed out on a spot in the final, Ywen was still proud of her debut performance in the South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
"I feel that I could have done better in the semi-final, but this was a good experience for me and I will definitely learn from here and improve," she told The New Paper.
Coach Andras Decsi said it was already a great achievement to win a medal and it would be a good stepping stone for her.
"Ywen is an exceptional and dedicated athlete. She has great potential and we'll definitely see better results in the future."
Indeed. Ywen was unfazed as she scored the first point against Thailand's 2011 bronze medallist Sirawalai Starrat in their semi-final.
The duo hacked and slashed at each other fearlessly, at times forcing the other on the edge of her area.
They entered the half-point break almost neck to neck at 8-7.
Both continued their offence, albeit with a bit more caution, and Ywen led 12-10. But that proved to be the turning point as Sirawalai went on a four-point streak.
Ywen snatched a point back to keep her hopes alive, but it proved to be in vain as the Thai prevailed 15-13.
WINNERS CAN CRY
Decsi, 38, said that Ywen might have been confused after the break because her original game plan did not work out.
"She expected her opponent to take a bit more risk, but she didn't and Ywen couldn't react quickly enough after that," he said.
"She was very disappointed because she wanted to be in the final badly and it was so close. But I told her that this is not the time for crying - only the winners can cry."
Dr Lau Chee Chong, Ywen's father, was exhilarated that his daughter's hard work and sacrifice had paid dividends in the SEA Games.
He said that Ywen had missed about 50 per cent of her classes at United World College (Dover Campus) for training and competitions, and her mother had to accompany her on overseas stints.
Mrs Cynthia Lau added: "It's quite daunting to be up there (competing) and we think it's fabulous Sports Singapore and Fencing Singapore give a chance to young athletes like Ywen and Kevin (Chan)."