SIBLINGS Joshua Koh I-Jie and Timothy Koh I-Wei registered an impressive outing at the Malaysia Games (Sukma) fencing competition at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu recently.
Although Selangor could not repeat the four gold, two silver and six bronze medals feat attained at the previous biennial games, the duo delivered two gold medals.
Selangor bagged only two gold, two silver and three bronze medals at the recent games.
In the men’s individual epee, Joshua lived up to his billing as the top exponent in the country.
The 17-year-old southpaw defeated R. Rubenchandran of Kuala Lumpur to retain his title.
“I have been improving on my technique since training under the guidance of the national coach (Oleg Victorovich) from Uzbekistan in 2006. Last year, I joined the national training squad at the National Sports Council (NSC) in Bukit Jalil,” said Joshua, who had also emerged champion at the Selangor Open Fencing Championships this season.
Meanwhile, it was a perfect swansong for Timothy in his final appearance at the games.
After picking up three bronze medals – individual foil, team foil and team sabre – at Sukma in Kedah two years ago, Timothy captured his first gold medal in the men's individual foil.
The 20-year-old former national trainee edged Sabri Nullah of Sabah in the final.
“It was my third appearance at the games and I was very fortunate to have an easy path to advance to the final. I knew that I had a realistic chance to triumph over him (Sabri) because we had trained together before I pulled out from the national squad last year. I am elated to have finally collected a gold medal; my six months of serious training has paid dividends,” said Timothy.
The Koh brothers also teamed up with rookie Al-Imran Sharol Lail to deliver an unexpected silver medal in the men's team foil.
“We went down 33-45 to Sabah in the final. But, we performed better than expected to snatch a hard-earned win over Johor in the semi-finals. We won the bout against Johor by only two points (45-43),” said Timothy, who anchored the side.
Joshua said he just went out to enjoy the occasion in the men's team foil.
“In fact, I had started off in the foil when I took up fencing in 2003. I only switched to epee before making my debut at Sukma in Negri Sembilan in 2004. The coaches felt that I had the potential to excel in the epee. Occasionally, I still fence in the foil for fun and relaxation, so I did not feel the pressure when I featured in the foil team event,” he explained.
Joshua also led Selangor to collect a silver medal in the men's team epee.
“We were the favourites for the title. In the final against Terengganu, we were trailing by six points to play the catch-up game going into the decisive bout. We ended up losing the encounter by seven points (38-45) eventually,” Joshua said.
In addition, Timothy also took home another bronze with the Selangor men's team sabre.
“Our team captain (Mohd Radhi Hasim) was the defending champion in the men's individual sabre. But, he lost in the quarter-finals and was disappointed.
“We wanted to cheer him up by winning a medal in the team event,” said Timothy, who was also the assistant captain.
Selangor accumulated another three bronze medals through Hasmie Sohaimi in the men's individual epee, women’s team foil and women’s team sabre.
Joshua is looking forward to taking part in the International Fencing Federation (FIE) competitions against established fencers to improve his temperament and move up the world rankings.
Joshua's father Koh Swee Heah said the family would play their roles to support Joshua in fulfilling his dream of qualifying for the next Olympics in 2012.
“We realised that fencing is not a major sport in the country and it has always been tough to source enough funds for him to compete in international meets. We are backing him because he is serious about achieving his aspiration,” Koh said, adding that Joshua was eyeing a slot at the Asian Fencing Championships Junior and Cadet in South Korea in September.
This year, Joshua, ranked 116th in the men's epee section, took part in three international competitions, including the World Junior and Cadet meet in Italy in April.
He finished a respectable 54th among the 130 competitors at the world junior meet.
In the back-to-back competitions held in Bangkok, he missed the cut for this year's Olympics in Beijing when he lost to the eventual champion (Serguei Katchiourine of Kazakhstan) in the semi-finals and settled for the fourth place in the Pre-Olympics qualifier.
“Only the champion secured the slot for the Olympics. I managed to beat him (Katchiourine) in the preliminary encounter but he is a seasoned campaigner with vast experience and I was a bit tense against him in the semi-finals,” said Joshua, who also finished ninth in the Asian Fencing Championships.
The Koh siblings are aiming to do well at the Malaysia Open Fencing Championships scheduled to be held at the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) Indoor Sports Arena from July 4 to 8.
Timothy is hoping to be among the medal contenders.
“My best achievement was finishing in the top 16 at the Malaysia Open. I want to do better than that. My immediate goal is to continue to fence competitively at national level,” said Timothy, who hopes to pursue mechanical engineering.
On the other hand, Joshua is setting a higher target for himself – to go one better in his upcoming assignment after finishing runner-up at the Malaysia Open two years ago.