HANS Yoong is shaping up to be a formidable fencer, having won gold in the Malaysia Federation under-17 tournament this year and strong showings at the South-East Asia Pacific Championships and Asean Championships.
Hans’ latest exploits earned him a respectable second place among 41 fencers from Hong Kong, Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Macau, and his coach says the 15-year-old foilist can do better.
En route to the final, Hans beat Filipino Samuel Mangarin and Aussie Jacob Dowson, then defeated his teammate Bryan Cheong in the quarter-finals and the Philippines’ top cadet Sammuel Tranquilan in the semi-final with a slim 15-13 victory.
But meeting Hong Kong’s more experienced left-hander Chui Man in the final proved a little too far for Hans as he lost the showdown.
“I was worried about the traps he would lay and didn’t go all out at him in the beginning,” said Hans about his mindset, which had him to trail 7-2.
“And when I pushed him he counter-attacked.
“Catching up was very hard and was too late.
“He already had a big margin ahead of me,” admitting that his opponent had the upper hand throughout the match, especially in the counter-attacking department.
But former Thai national fencer Nontapat Panchan, who coaches the boys at Blade Fencing Kuala Lumpur, said Hans could have won the event and it was just down to mental strength in stressful situations.
“It wasn’t the worst draw imaginable,” noted the coach. “Man To is a good fencer but I believe Hans gave him too much respect for his counter-attacks.
“In the later part of the match, Hans was more relaxed and was able to hit his opponent time and time again,” he explained.
“Hans is not the most technical fencer but he has a good attitude and talent, which is something you can’t teach,” added the veteran foilist, who secured Thailand’s first gold medal at the recent SEA Games.
Hans was the only Malaysian to get past the quarter-finals after defeating teammate Bryan 15-9, and that came after Bryan beat their other teammate Lim Jin Quan 15-8 in the round of 16.
The fourth Blade fencer in the squad was Lee Ting An, 16, who lost his first match to Macau’s Ng Wai Kit 15-10.
The four fencers also took part in the boys under-17 team foil event and managed a third-place finish among the eight.
At the start, the team were seeded second, based on the rankings from the individual event, but Nontapat made a point to remind the lads that the other fencers were making big strides of their own and producing surprising results.
“We took the second seeding as a compliment but not a reality, and we were actually the underdogs,” said Nontapat.
The young fencers dismissed Philippines C with an easy 45-15 win in the first round but could not replicate it in the semi-finals against an older Australian side, who booked their place in the final against Hong Kong with a 45-41 win.
“It was a close match against Australia and Hans did well in his bout, but Bryan and Jin Quan really shone in that match because they had tough individual performances prior to the team event, and I was concerned if they could handle it, but they did really well,” added Nontapat.
“It looked like we had a strong performance but we fell short at the end and I think the older Australian fencers with more experience in international competition were able to stay calm and secure the win.
“I hope it’ll be a lesson for the boys on what they need to do and also for myself as a coach,” he noted.
Nontapat added that a third place for a country with little fencing culture was a great start and it would drive the boys to do better.
He added that Hans was by far the best fencer and that he was expected to perform well.
“His potential is tremendous, and Bryan, who only picked up fencing two years ago, has made big strides and has been fencing well of late.
“Jin Quan is also well ahead in terms of technical performance – he is spectacular.
“And at this point, I would say his technique is as good as mine, but he is still young and he needs to apply his technique to a real fight situation.”
Nontapat said the fencers were now at the age where certain level of results are to be expected in the coming year.
“I want them to be stronger and our focus now is the Asian Championships and the World Championships.”
Nontapat’s other goals are to prepare the boys for the next SEA Games on home soil and also to give them the right moves for a better chance of getting the best education they can.
“They are young but if they stay focused and resilient, and work hard as they have been, they will be ready and able to represent the country on their home soil, which would be an amazing privilege,” Nontapat said of the SEA Games.
“Down the road, my other goal is to get them good enough to open doors, educationally speaking, to top universities in the US and the UK, where fencing scholarships are becoming more available,” added Nontapat.