MALAYSIA’S top fencer (Epee discipline) Joshua Koh I-Jie is determined to earn his stripes and represent Malaysia in the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China in November.
To realise his dreams, the 20-year-old Joshua, who won two gold medals in the recent Malaysia Games (Sukma) in Malacca, will be heading to Pisa, Italy for a three-month training stint on July 29.
Joshua’s father — Koh Swee Heah — is forking out almost RM60,000 for the stint.
In Italy, Joshua will be under the guidance of Enrico Di Ciolo, the trainer of the Italian Olympic fencing squad.
Ciolo is considered one of the best fencing coaches in Italy and the Club Scherma Di Ciolo has produced no less than 50 medal winners in the Olympics, FIE World Championship and European Championships over the years.
Joshua attended a two-month training stint with Ciolo last year. Under the guidance of Ciolo, Joshua learned new fencing skills and perfected techniques. He also had the opportunity to go through a systematic physical training programme.
Joshua had also improved his Schermistieca skills — critical timing in defence and attack; preparation and safeguard measures against opponent during a bout.
Joshua said training under Ciolo was different.
“The focus was on skills, speed and style. I returned as a better fencer and my results are impressive,’’ said Joshua.
In the Sukma, Joshua, a full-time trainee under the National Sports Council (NSC) programme, represented Selangor. He won the Epee gold medal as well as the team gold. He also won a silver and bronze medal in the Sukma in the team events for Sabre and Foil respectively. He had also won gold medals for Epee in the 2006 and 2008 Sukma
In the Asian Junior championships in Manila, the Philippines, Joshua finished a credible eight.
However Joshua, who is hailed as the best Epee fencer in Southeast Asia, believes that his remarkable progress was because of the coaching stint in Italy.
“Now it is my ambition to represent Malaysia in the Asian Games and subsequently the 2012 Olympics in London. The stint will be valuable as I will be taking part in the world championships in Paris, France before the Asian Games.
“With the guidance from Ciolo, I will be well prepared for the world championships,’’ said Joshua.
Early this year, Joshua, supported by his father, took part in three international competitions — the World Cup in Kish island, Iran, Qatar grand prix and Trophee Carroccio in Italy.
In the World Cup, Joshua was placed 26th, 80th in Qatar and 100th in Italy.
His recent competition was the Asian Fencing championships in South Korea early this month. Joshua was placed 34th after losing 14-15 to a Iranian fencer.
However, Joshua is confident he will be able to give a better performance in the world championships.
“The field will be a strong 144 fencers. I will be well prepared after training with Ciolo,’ said Joshua, who has been involved in fencing since he was 13.
When he first started, Joshua opted for the Foil but the coaches spotted the youngster’s talents and adviced him to swtich to the Epee.
Following his gold medal winning feat in the 2006 Sukma in Kedah, Joshua was drafted into the national squad and trains under Uzbek coach Oleg Tikho-molov.
As a member of the national squad, Joshua, the youngest of five siblings, had attended training programmes in France, Kazakhstan and Russia.
He has also won medals in local and international competitions including individual and team gold medals in the Commonwealth Fencing championship in 2009 and individual gold medal in the Southeast Asia Fencing championship in Brunei in 2008.