En garde! Brunei fencers on target

Fadhil Yunus

Fencers in Brunei Darussalam have been raising their game to another level in the regional scene, as is evident from a string of successes, showing further proof that the country is capable of rubbing shoulders with athletes of international pedigree.

The latest demonstration of skills was exhibited at the 4th ASEAN University Fencing Championship (AUFC), Nilai University in Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia last month. The country bagged two gold medals with national athletes Hajah Anis Sabrina binti Haji Yahya and Anaqi Danish Asahrin winning the women’s and men’s sabre events.

The victories marked the most recent milestone for the country’s sporting developments this year before the global coronavirus-enforced break. Hajah Anis Sabrina who represented the Laksamana College of Business (LCB) in the higher learning institution-level event, did one better than her previous appearance, having reached the final last year. The elite fencer, whose last major appearance was at the 30th Southeast Asian Games in Manila, Philippines last December, upgraded from silver to gold after a 15-7 victory over Chnay Linly of Cambodia.

Her compatriot Anaqi Danish Asahrin enjoyed similar success when he won the men’s competition after a 15-9 victory over Ahmad Syukran in the final.

As Hajah Anis Sabrina entered the best years of her competitive career, she impressed again at an event which boasted some of the finest talents from Southeast Asia.

Her journey towards victory involved facing old rival Natania Tai Li Sue of Malaysia, an opponent who denied her the title in the final last year.

Having progressed to the last four after a 15-9 victory over Indonesia’s Dinda Dwi Aryant, she repeated her performance with a stunning 15-10 victory over Natania, who was tipped to defend her title. Hajah Anis had a busy year in 2019 when she made history as the first female fencer from Brunei to compete in the World Fencing Championships in Budapest, Hungary. She was placed 105th out of 148 participants in the women’s sabre event.

Before the world meet, Hajah Anis also represented the country in the Asian Fencing Championship in Tokyo, Japan.

The Brunei Darussalam Fencing Federation (BDFF) also brought back one silver and four bronze medals from the Sarawak Invitational Fencing Challenge at the end of last year.

Haziq Asahrin snatched the silver medal in the men’s sabre category while his brother Anaqi Danish claimed bronze in the men’s sabre and foil events. The other two bronze medals were won by Dayangku Siti Syahirah binti Pengiran Idris in the women’s sabre event and Nurul Syafiqah in the women’s epee category.

Last October, Wardatul Izzah binti Ahmad Ramzuna proved that the country’s talents are not only recognised in the region but also internationally after she triumphed in the University College Dublin (UCD) Intermediate Championship in the company of European opposition. The third year medical student clinched gold after she defeated Niamh Keogh in the final.

En route to the title, she eased through the semi-finals with a 15-3 win over Polyann Fullerton before following it up with a 15-8 win over Sadhbh Skehan.

A month later, Wardatul Izzah continued her good form after she captured the gold medal in the women’s sabre event at the Beifield Sabre event in UCD, Ireland. Having sealed a place in the final after a 15-13 win over Ireland’s Grainne O’ Connor, she earned the gold medal after a 15-12 victory over May Fast of Norway.

Closer to home, the fencing team enjoyed a haul of one silver and two bronze medals in the 9th MMU Fencing Championship in Malacca in April last year.

Brunei Darussalam fencers have also made progress at the continental scene with Anaqi Danish making known how far the country could go against international counterparts.

Two years ago, the then-19-year old Anaqi Danish advanced into the second round of the Asian Under-23 Fencing Championship in the Philippines after winning both of his men’s sabre ties against the Philippines and Saudi Arabia in the group stage.

Earlier that year, Anaqi Danish produced a commendable performance in the World Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships in Verona, Italy. The young fencer ensured his place in the second round after racking wins against Great Britain and the Netherlands during qualifying.

That year also saw the women’s sabre team earn bronze in the Southeast Asian Fencing Federation Championship organised by the Olympic Council of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. In the men’s sabre event of the same competition, Anaqi Danish claimed a bronze medal.

One of the highlights for Brunei’s fencing in 2018 was Yunus Hamid winning gold in the West Java International Open Fencing Championship after a 15-11 victory over Indonesia’s Diko Arfandi.

Additionally, in April 2018 Wardatul clinched the gold medal in the Kian Kok Sabah Open Fencing Championships 2018 after a 12-9 victory over Malaysia’s Michelle Woo in the women’s sabre event.