Pinay fencer Tinio gives PH first medal with silver SEA Games debut

SINGAPORE - Filipina fencer Justine Gail Tinio had very little expectations in her Southeast Asian Games debut here.  

But at the end of a long and tiring day, Tinio surprised everyone, including herself, in giving the country its first medal – a silver – in the women’s individual foil event of the 28th SEA Games at the OCBC Arena on Wednesday, June 3.      

Due to the long break between the semifinals and the championship match, the 18-year-old SEA Games rookie lost steam and eventually fell to veteran Singaporean fencer Wang Wengying, 7-15.

Despite her splendid maiden performance, Tinio, who was the Most Valuable Player in last season’s UAAP fencing championships, was despondent, saying: “I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to win the gold, but really I didn’t expect I would reach this far.”

She later disclosed that she only had lunch at around 4 p.m. after stunning Vietnam’s Do Tinh Anh, who had gotten the No. 1 seed after topping the pool eliminations, 15-11, in the quarterfinals to reach the semifinal round.

Tinio sustained her fiery form, taking down another Vietnamese Nguyen Tin Ho, 15-6, in the semis in a match witnessed by a small Filipino crowd.

Among those in the gallery were Philippine Olympic Committee First Vice President Joey Romasanta, Philippine Sports Commission Chairman Richie Garcia and Celso Dayrit, the president of the Fencing Confederation of Asia.

“Medyo nanlamig po ako kasi mahaba yong gap between the semis and the finals,” she rued later. “Mahirap na muling mag-warmup.”

“I lost steam because of the long gap between the semis and finals. It was hard for me to warm up.”

Although she was the aggressor all throughout, the 5-foot-3 Pinay fencer just couldn’t get going against the  taller and wily Wang, a naturalized Singaporean who was recruited from the Chinese mainland.

Tinio fell into an early 0-3 hole in the race-to-15 championship match, and could get closer than 4-7 as Wang kept on piling up the points on the way to her first individual gold in the meet.

She said she hoped to finally recover in the women’s team foil where she and UE teammates Wilhelmina Lozada and Karen Pangilinan will be competing next week. The trio are the reigning UAAP women’s team foil champions.   

Tinio was the last Filipino bet standing following the exit of Eric Brando in the quarterfinals of the men’s individual sabre, losing to Malaysia’s Yu Peng Kean, 11-15, in the quarterfinals.

Fencing resumes on Thursday with Emerson Segui, a gold medalist in the 2007 SEA Games, and Nathaniel Perez looming as the top bets in the men’s individual foil event. -