A valiant performance by Kiria at Tokyo 2021

With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics finally come and gone, we look back at the journey and the credible performance of Blade fencer Kiria Tikanah, with some perspectives from Coach Henry Koh:

Dare to Dream a Dream

After a scintillating performance at the 2019 SEA Games where Kiria won the first Women’s Epee Individual Gold in 24 years, we dared to begin to think that perhaps we could attempt a successful at Olympic Qualification for Tokyo 2020. Kiria’s campaign was off to a decent start in some of the Category A competitions she took part in, but it soon became apparent that the only way was to win the wild card competition at the Asian Qualifiers, something that no-one in Singapore fencing had ever done.

Through grit and determination, sheer hard work despite Covid, and a little luck, Kiria made in by winning the tournament in Uzbekistan. She was the 2nd person from Singapore to do so because just a day earlier, foilist Amita also made it in her event. It was a very proud day for Fencing Singapore given that we went from zero Qualifiers to two Olympians within one qualifying cycle!

Embrace the Challenge

Once the Olympic berth was confirmed, Kiria kept her head down and just kept working hard. By the time the qualifying period was over, I began to strategize for her how to fence the opponents we were likely to fence. Because of the knockout format and the known qualifying seeds, it was possible to start figuring out the fencing strategies that were needed for specific opponents. Come Tokyo 2020, we knew we wanted to defeat the moderately difficult first round opponent that was going to ranked higher than us, and then take a very strong fight to the World Number 1 or Number 2 that was going to be the second round opponent.

And so after months of preparation we went, hopeful in our hearts. The first round went according to plan, with Kiria beating Coco Lin of Hong Kong 15-11 (watch the full bout on mewatch.sg). As expected, World Number 1 Popescu of Romania was next. Kiria got close at one stage, 10-11 down with about 34 seconds left (watch the full bout on mewatch.sg), but it was not to be, losing 15-10 in the end. It was a great performance, to be sure, and one I hope gave Singaporeans something to be proud about.

Kiria looks forward to the next cycle, where she is determined to improve and come back stronger. As she herself said: “It has just been a very eye-opening time for me in Tokyo, and I think I learnt a lot from watching the competition. Hopefully, if I have another chance to compete at the Olympics, there’ll be a better atmosphere with fans able to attend.”

 

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