Photos and words by Mathew Gan (14A01C)
The impassioned cheers from the crowd are abruptly silenced as the fencers raised their sabres. A pause. Everyone is frozen in their places, eyes focused on the two glinting weapons. They clash.
Roars of victory erupt from the Rafflesian spectators present as sabreur and girls’ captain Christabel Yong punches the air in triumph. The Raffles Fencing team has just swept away their third individual Gold, sweeping, in the girls’ division, the Bronze, Silver, and Gold medals, as well as the girls’ A-division team first in the National Inter-school Championships.
It was not that this year’s competition made it easy for our girls. Every school present put up a good fight, especially Hwa Chong Institution, who were stout opposition for our fencers. In the finals, for Foil, Sabre, and Épée, the girls faced a Hwa Chong counterpart in each, but they were able to push through all the way, coming out top in all three matches.
The last match of the Inter-schools was especially rousing. The scores are neck to neck, the penultimate score by Hwa Chong resulting in a heart-stopping equalizer at 14-14. This last hit in the nationals would decide who won the last Gold of the year. The two competitors take in deep breaths to calm themselves before the conclusive crossing of blades of an intense match, which finally ends with Christabel winning through a decisive strike on her opponent’s sword arm. The match has been secured. She salutes her opponent, the referee, and the audience by raising her blade’s hilt to her chin, then punches the air in firmly, spirit unyielding. The team cheers all the while from the sidelines.
Said Christabel after the competition, “Since the start of the competition, I had been quite nervous and had felt that I was under-performing, even up until the finals. What really helped me was fellow fencer Melvin and our coach, Mr Oleg, pointing out my mistakes and telling me how to correct them, what I should do when facing a certain opponent, and so on. Also, the huge amount support that the fencing team gave me really inspired me. To see them cheer so enthusiastically pushed me to do my best, and to exceed that best.”
“I also think that this Inter-schools made me feel really inspired by my teammates. During the competition, I could really see each and every one of them fight hard for every point. Even if they were down, they didn’t give up. They all trained really hard for this competition also so I’m really happy to see them fence with all their strength.”
The sense of camaraderie within the fencing team extends to the J1s as well. Clara Chong, who attained a Bronze in the Foil weapon category, said that she was honoured and proud to be part of the team. “It’s the fighting spirit within the team that’s important.”
Thalia Lee and Fan Jin both won Gold for their weapon categories, Foil and Epée respectively, while Clara Chong and Denise Fu brought home the two Foil Bronzes, and Tan Tze En an Epée Bronze. For Fan Jin, the last two bouts were difficult, reason being partly because both were friends that she trained regularly with.
“During the finals against my friend from another school, having the whole school team and our coach supporting me really pushed me to keep on fighting because it wasn’t just about me and my friend fencing, it was about doing my best for RJ fencing. I think that’s what was essential to everybody’s performance during Inter-schools, as in we were really one team, always encouraging and motivating each other, putting in our all into the competition to do our school proud.”
Thalia had an easier time, winning all the matches by a clear margins up to her finals, which she won 15-7.
The boys’ team sadly did not do so well in comparison, but were still able to bag a Bronze in the Sabre weapon category.
Said Xie Debin, boys’captain, “It was really tough for us this year as our team was not the most experienced in the competition. But we worked hard throughout the one and a half years we had and do not regret the outcome.”
He praised Tze Yang for exceeding expectations though.
“Although he was lagging behind in the match, he shouted to motivate himself after scoring a point. I am sure the audience all felt it as it was intense. Tze Yang lost to the first seed in the semi-finals, but he still put up a strong fight nonetheless.”
Tze Yang himself is ever so humble, saying that he “can still improve his score.”
What your reporter gathered was that there is general consensus that the competition was really exciting this year. Both Mr Teo, teacher-in-charge of fencing, as well as national team fencer Jerrold agreed that this year’s matches have been genuinely interesting.
All in all, this year’s competition from Raffles can be summed up with a line from girls’ captain Christabel: “No reserve, no retreat, no regret.” And that was just what they did.
For detailed scorings, please visit http://sssc.schoolsports.sg/fencing/download for the Results .zip file.