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SEA Games 2023: Singapore fencer Si To Jian Tong wins gold despite being late replacement

PHNOM PENH – Heading to Cambodia, Singapore fencer Si To Jian Tong’s inclusion in the SEA Games individual epee had been overshadowed by the controversial exclusion of a more experienced fencer.

But on Thursday, Si To had the spotlight firmly fixed on him and it even had a golden hue as he clinched Singapore’s first gold medal in the event.

The 19-year-old beat Jose Noelito Garcia of the Philippines 15-11 in the final at the Chroy Changvar Convention Centre.

The country’s previous best result in the men’s epee was when Ronald Tan (1987 and 1989), James Wong (1991) and Lim Wei Wen (2007 and 2015) won silver.

Si To was named as a replacement in the individual event for veteran fencer Samson Lee, who was dropped from the squad for missing three training sessions. He had reportedly missed training due to the birth of his child, his father’s hospitalisation and work commitment.

During his SEA Games debut in Vietnam last May, Si To was part of the epee team that won gold, but had to settle for a top-eight finish in the individual event.

Debutante Juliet Heng won Singapore’s other fencing gold on Thursday, emerging triumphant in the women’s sabre.

Heng’s win at Chroy Changvar Convention Centre is Singapore’s first in the event since the 2017 Games when Lau Ywen won gold. She defeated compatriot Jessica Ong 15-8 in the final.

Earlier, Heng had beaten the Philippines’ Nicanor Jylyn Porto 15-9 in the semi-finals, while Ong won 15-13 against Cambodia’s Linly Chhay.

This was Ong’s second consecutive final.

At the last Games in Hanoi, Ong bagged the silver in the women’s sabre individual event after losing to Vietnam’s Bui Thi Thu Ha in the final, with teammate Jolie Lee snagging a joint-bronze.

This contributed to Singapore fencing’s best Games showing of six gold, four silver and five bronze medals.