Epee star Lim wants to honour late coach at SEA Games
Fencer Lim goes into SEA Games drawing inspiration from his former tutor and mentor
He has battled on the grand stage of an Asian Games, and emerged with a bronze medal.
Epee fencer Lim Wei Wen made history when he became the first Singaporean to win a fencing medal at the Incheon Games last year, but his triumph was marked by a tinge of sadness.
In 2012, former national coach Alexey Karpov succumbed to a heart attack, and the fact that he could not witness his student's feat meant Lim could not really celebrate.
Lim told The New Paper: "We would have had a big party to celebrate, and we would have hugged and cried.
"A part of this SEA (South-east Asia) Games, I will be competing for him."
The 30-year-old is a gold-medal hope for the Singapore fencing team at the 28th SEA Games here in June.
Lim credits Karpov for turning him into the fencer he is today.
The Russian first spotted Lim at a novice event here in 2006, just months after the former competitive gamer picked up the sport at ITE Balestier.
Lim recalled: "I was looking at this Caucasian guy and wondering why he seemed to be tracking me at the competition. I ignored him and finished in the top eight, which I was very satisfied about."
Karpov approached him after the event and invited Lim to be a sparring partner in the national team.
"I don't know why he believed in me, he said he wanted to train me to qualify for the SEA Games in 2007, and he wanted me to win the gold there," Lim said.
"I thought to myself, 'Siao (Hokkien for crazy) ah, coach', the SEA Games was a year away and all my seniors had fenced for more than 10 years already."
But the 1.80m-tall athlete hunkered down and trained hard under Karpov, who was once Russia's national coach, and made the team for the 2007 Games in Thailand.
Remarkably, Lim went on a fairytale run all the way to the final, where he was beaten by Vietnam's Do Huu Cuong in the men's individual epee. Had he won, Lim would have become the first Singaporean man to win an individual fencing title at the SEA Games.
As the sport was not offered at the 2009 Games, the 2010 Commonwealth Fencing Championships silver medallist attempted to chase history at the 2011 Games in Indonesia, but faltered because of injury.
"Alex was no longer the national coach in 2011 but I wanted to get a gold at the SEA Games for him, but I hurt my ligament before my event," said Lim.
Subsequently, he hung up his fencing breeches for 18 months to take care of his sick grandparents, before returning in 2013 after being named in the first batch of athletes for the elite Sports Excellence Scholarship programme. He has been training full-time since.
Lim leaves with the team tomorrow for a month-long training camp in South Korea.
When the Games starts, he will be out to thrill the home crown at the OCBC Arena at the Sports Hub.
Lim said: "I don't want to say, 'Oh, I want to win a gold for (Alexey)". Of course medals and results are good, but for me, what is more important is the attitude, not just of the sportsmen, but of the people here, too.
"This is the SEA Games in Singapore, this is my home, this is the right moment to showcase my country, my people, and how strong we are.
"When my supporters come to watch me fight they are not just spectators, they are also competing with me.
"Fencing may be a one-versus-one sport, but with supporters, it will be 100-versus-one. We are going to be the big bullies out there with home support."
It was written in the stars, Aloysius
He can't remember if he was three or four, but he knows he first tried fencing when his father - a former fencer - taught him and his younger brother the basic skills of the sport.
Aloysius Low was 13 when he started training at the Z Fencing club, which dad Low Wai Cheong co-founded. The 16-year-old is now in the Singapore SEA Games squad that will compete on home soil in June.
No one would have guessed it, after Aloysius chose badminton as his Co-Curricular Activity in Primary 1, then joined the choir from Primary 3. As a Secondary 1 student at Anglo-Chinese School (International), he played basketball and rugby.
He said: "I didn't take fencing seriously, it was just a hobby where I would go for classes on Saturday."
He got hooked on the sport after catching epee fencers Samson Lee and Lim Wei Wen duel in the final of a local competition.
Aloysius said: "It was really amazing, I never thought fencing could be so elegant, yet so aggressive."
His interest grew after Lim's inspirational breakthrough at the 2014 Asian Games when he won a bronze medal.
"I really want to do that, too. I want to break records for Singapore, and Wei Wen always says, 'if you have an opportunity, grab it'," said the teenager.
Aloysius is part of the epee team, along with Lim, Lee and Willie Khoo, for the Games. He will make his Games debut in front of family and friends, and despite a tough training schedule, is determined to make it work.
Said Aloysius: "I've actually just started on my IB (international baccalaureate) programme and coping with school and training is very tough.
"I have a lot of exams and tests that I have to take before I go on the training trip to South Korea next Friday.
"But it is such a rare opportunity to compete in a SEA Games on home ground, and we have such a strong team now, with a very strong chance of winning a medal. It's an opportunity that I need to grab, even though I know it's going to be hard catching up in school."
- When: June 3 to 7
- Where: OCBC Arena (Ticketed)
- On offer: 12 gold medals
- Historical medal haul: 3 golds, 16 silvers, 34 bronzes
- The team: Lim Wei Wen, Samson Lee, Willie Khoo, Aloysius Low, Choy Yu Yong, Tseng Lin Fang, Clive Leu, David Chan, Joshua Lim, Kevin Chan, Justin Ong, Wu Jie, Rania Rahardja, Elizabeth Lim, Victoria Lim, Cheryl Lim, Ywen Lau, Ann Lee, Christabel Yong, Sharmaine Cheung, Nicole Wong, Liane Wong, Cheryl Wong, Wang Wenying
1989: Choy Fong Leng won Singapore's first individual SEA Games fencing gold medal in the women's individual epee event.
2005: The quartet of Ruth Ng, Serene Ser, Cheryl Wong and Tay Yu Ling clinched the Republic's first team title at the Games in the foil event.
- Did you know?
Choy Fong Leng is the only Singaporean to win an individual fencing gold at the Games. She won the women's individual epee title at the 1989 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
- Our tip:
Singapore topped the Commonwealth Fencing Championships with four golds, four silvers and two bronzes last December, ahead of Malaysia. But regional powerhouses Vietnam and Thailand were not in the fray. Still, the women's foil fencers are expected to fight for gold, while the men's epee fencers may spring surprises in June.