Fencing and MMA help Nazri Sutari win SEA Games gold in sambo
Former fencer fulfils SEA Games dream - in combat sport that's making its debut
Mixed martial artist turned combat sambo fighter Nazri Sutari claimed Singapore's first SEA Games gold medal in sambo at the Angeles University Foundation Gymnasium yesterday.
The national kickboxing coach defeated Indonesia's Jason Sim 10-2 to clinch the men's combat Under-82kg title.
Singapore also won two silvers through Ashvin Singh and Gary Chow yesterday.
Singh lost 8-0 to the Philippines' Mark Striegl in the men's combat Under-74kg final, while Chow, who had represented Singapore in judo, was beaten 4-1 by the Philippines' Chino Sy in the Under-82kg final.
Nazri's sambo gold is the first ever awarded at the SEA Games as the sport makes its debut.
His win is more remarkable as he came into the sport only this year, after being scouted by the sambo division of the Wrestling Federation of Singapore to represent the Republic at the biennial Games.
"I didn't expect to win the gold, nor did I have any big expectations," the former national fencer told The New Paper in a phone interview.
"It's the best way to end the year. My journey has been unbelievable; it feels like a movie."
Nicknamed "Porkchop" because of his physique as a teenager, the athlete credits his work ethic, and mixed martial arts (MMA) and fencing background for his victory.
He started his fencing journey after picking up the sabre at 13. In 2010, he represented Singapore at the Southeast Asia Fencing Championships before enlisting for national service.
The 29-year-old said: "I've trained a lot. Fencing helped me develop my speed and footwork, and MMA makes me a well-rounded fighter, which is important in sambo."
Despite being a sambo champion, Nazri is adamant his passion still lies in MMA.
"I'm really excited to have won gold, but I still want to compete in MMA," the Singapore Polytechnic alumnus said.
"I don't have any specific goals, but I want to continue to compete in the highest level of sport."
Singh and Chow both expressed disappointment in their losses, as they had aimed for the gold.
"I thought I was the best man in my division," said Singh, who has a background in jiu-jitsu and boxing.
The 28-year-year old began jiu-jitsu in his teens, and MMA five years ago.
His strategy was to focus on submission, but his opponent played a tactical match.
"I'm disappointed... my opponent focused on points. I played to make him submit, and I still believe I was the better fighter."
For Chow, gold remains elusive.
The former judoka had won a silver in the 2013 Games in Myanmar, and a bronze two years later on home soil.
"I made the mistake of giving away too many penalties, so I'm disappointed. Every competition I play, I aim for gold," the full-time judo coach said.
"I joined sambo as many of my friends are in the sport, and I was losing motivation in judo.
"My heart will always lie with judo but I thought it was the time to transition (to sambo). The only option for me was to win gold here in Manila."
Chow continues his hunt for gold in the mixed team event today. He said: "Every match, my mind is always on the gold. I'm going to give it my all and continue to persevere."