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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Sun Yiwen: The Grit and Grace of China’s Fencing Champion

SportsSun Yiwen: The Grit and Grace of China's Fencing Champion

In a high-stakes bout at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, East China’s Zhejiang Province, Team China faced off against the top-ranked South Korean fencing team. The result was a close 27-30 loss for China in the women’s épée team semifinal on Wednesday. Yet, for Olympic champion Sun Yiwen, the bronze medal wasn’t the end of the journey but rather another step in her illustrious career.

This team event was special for Sun, not just because of the medal but because she had the privilege to lead a fresh team featuring young talents Xu Nuo, Shi Yuexin, and Tang Junyao. Their performance in the face of experienced opponents spoke of potential and promise. Sun, drawing on her rich experience, saw the competition as an invaluable learning opportunity. She was optimistic, noting that the challenges faced at such a level would only bolster their confidence and resolve as they gear up for future Olympic qualifiers.

Earlier, during the initial days of the Asian Games, Sun had an intense duel with the formidable South Korean fencer Song Sera in the women’s épée individual event quarterfinals. While the outcome wasn’t in her favor, Sun’s demeanor post-match was a testament to her character. She retained her poise, addressing the media with a smile, demonstrating the grace that comes with experience.

This year’s Asian Games holds a special place in Sun’s heart. Of the three times she’s competed in the Games, the current edition stands out because it’s held on home turf, and notably, it marks her final appearance at the event. Her journey, especially the recent milestones, is worth recounting. At the Tokyo Olympics, she etched her name in the annals of history by becoming the first Chinese fencer to clinch gold in the Olympic individual women’s épée event.

However, such victories come at a cost. Sun grappled with caudal vertebrae and knee injuries post her Olympic win, halting her training till October 2022. When she finally stepped back into the arena, she candidly shared the impact these setbacks had on her career, including the mistakes she made during her comeback. But, proving her mettle, she has given commendable performances in Hangzhou.

As the Paris 2024 Olympics loom on the horizon, Sun’s ambition remains undimmed. She expressed, “In fencing, particularly in women’s sabre, very few have won consecutively or even claimed a podium finish twice. I’m hopeful and believe in pushing my limits further.”

This Asian Games has been a stage for many veteran athletes, including the 48-year-old Uzbekistani gymnast Oksana Chusovitina and table tennis legend, 34-year-old Ma Long. However, for Sun, her journey now transcends personal accolades. She aspires to inspire. With a wealth of experience behind her, she hopes to guide and fast-track the growth of younger Chinese athletes.

Reflecting on her career, she commented, “Age brings its challenges, from injuries to slower recovery. But with age comes the capacity to endure, to guide, and to inspire. I’m fortunate to still be part of the team, to leverage my experience for the benefit of the younger generation.”

Her resilience and determination resound in her words, “Regardless of the hurdles, I’ll never back down.”


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