FORMER Olympian Nontapat Panchan of Thailand showed his best to inspire Kuala Lumpur’s Blade Fencing trainees at the eighth Air Force International Fencing Championships in Bangkok, Thailand recently.
Nontapat, who is taking charge of the newly set-up centre, proved that he has the touch to fend off his challengers in the men’s open foil at the meet.
“It was fun to compete in a relaxed atmosphere at the competition. I tried to maintain a high standard. I felt that I could not disappoint my trainees when they were watching me in action. I want to be a good role model to the trainees, especially the younger ones. It is important for them to pick up good qualities to become accomplished fencers. I have stopped training seriously last year. However, I am still in good shape and could still handle the opponents at this level,” said Nontapat.
At the recent tournament, Nontapat won all five encounters in the group to enter the elimination stages as the seventh-ranked contender before going all the way to emerge as the men’s open foil winner.
Nontapat also led the Kuala Lumpur-based club’s top-ranked side comprising Richard Barnes-Webb, Raveen Chandra and Lim Jin Quan to finish as the men’s foil team event champions.
The 13-year-old Jin Quan was also one of the losing semi-finalists when he went down 2-8 to his club’s teammate and eventual champion Hans Yoong in the boys’ Under-14 foil category.
Nontapat praised his young charge Jin Quan for putting up fighting performances against stronger opponents in the team event.
“Jin Quan definitely stepped up to the challenge. He was not intimidated in taking on the more senior fencers. It was a different thrill to compete in the team event,” he said.
In the team event, Blade A edged Iraqi Army Fencing Club 45-38 for a place in the final and continued their gallant run to upset the top seeds Air Force Fencing Club of Thailand comprising two current Thai national fencers with a slim 44-42 win.
Favourites Air Force side had the services of Nuanphlap Sanphot and Mayakan Sopanat; both of whom are part of the Thailand national training set-up.
The 31-year-old Nontapat called it day from his competitive career to focus on coaching after he failed to make the cut in the London Olympics last year.
The former South-East Asia top-ranked foil fencer featured in the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
At the regional level, Nontapat has stamped his mark by capturing five individual gold medals from the men’s foil section at the SEA Games between 2001 and 2011.
He completed a perfect final outing at the biennial regional Games when Thailand emerged victorious in the men’s foil team event in 2011.
“It was a special farewell gift to secure the gold medal in the team event with my younger team-mates at the Games. Having served the Thai national team for more than 10 years, I could say goodbye knowing that my younger compatriots were ready to take over in winning honours for Thailand. My aim is to contribute to the development of fencing in the region. I came to Malaysia because it was an opportunity to explore new territory. I am excited about the potential for growth here,” he added.