Thu, 11 Dec 2003

RI fencing team gets off to poor start

Musthofid, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A rare, bizarre incident left Rina Sukmawati with a bronze as the Indonesian fencing team flopped on the opening day of competition at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games here on Wednesday.

The team won only four bronzes as Thailand swept three of four golds, with the Philippines taking the remaining one.

The team had Rina and Isnawati Idar in the women's epee competition; both have to be content with bronzes. Muhammad Haerullah and Dadan Heri were also unable to up their challenge in the men's epee and foil respectively.

Thailand's gold medalists were Sirriroj Rattaprasert, Nontapat Panchan and Siritida Choochokkul.

The Philippines took a gold, courtesy of Reyes Lenita Garcia in the women's foil category, in which Indonesia's Fabiolla Paulany Ratu and Verdiana Rihandini were unable to advance from the group matches.

Team manager Moeljono Abdoerrachman sent a tribute to the opponents, saying they were strong and had deserved to win.

"They are simply better than us. Let's rest our hopes on the next events," he said.

Rina was denied a place in the final after losing to Nguyen Thi Nhu Hoa of Vietnam in the semifinals, during which the 31- year-old Indonesian appeared to use a default blade almost throughout the game.

Rina Sukmawati was leading her opponent 13-5 when her point d'arret was displaced from its cap on the tip of the blade, causing her thrust to fail to trigger the light, which registers points.

She became aware of the mishap only later when she was level at 13-13. She changed the equipment but it was too late for her to recharge as the opponent, with support from the roaring local fans, fired up to score the final two points for victory.

Rina and Isnawati looked disappointed by the defeats. Rina was left to rue her result, which cost her the chance to challenge for the gold medal.

"I won't look for any excuse in the defeat. I'm to blame as I didn't notice the displacement of the point d'arret earlier," she said.

Taking two wins and a loss from the group match, Isnawati was up against an opponent with the meanest defensive armory, making it very difficult for the Indonesian to find headway for points.

Isnawati was beaten 15-8 in the semifinals by eventual winner Siritida Choochokkul.

"She quickly retreated to defense, with a good block," she said.

Muhammad Haerullah managed to beat Siriroj Rattaprasert in the group matches but in the semifinals he found his Thai opponent was tougher, apparently with a better tactical coup.

Haerullah looked to be trailing in the points score, although he was still able to limit the deficit to one point by the end of the second, three-minute round.

Eventually, he appeared to be the victim of his own offensive lunge as the Thai was beginning to widen the gap with his counterattack and rounded off the match with a 15-8 win.

"I had to score more points to catch up with him," he said. "We have skills generally on par. Eventually, experience determined the match. He had more experience than I am. He had a string of overseas tournaments before the SEA Games."

Ten gold medals are on offer in the fencing competition.