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Balancing act

25 May, 2015   Nicolette Mok

Our Sporting Hero. My Neighbour. Lim Wei Wen.

Some might associate a historic medal and nine full years of competitive fencing with notions of a rigorous and stressful lifestyle, but Singapore’s highest-ranked fencer and all-round nice guy Lim Wei Wen strikes one as a very laidback person.

Indeed, if you happen to visit Ang Mo Kio, do keep your eyes peeled, for you just may spot him zipping around on his electric unicycle, or going on walks around the neighbourhood with his beloved grandmother – armed with his signature toothy grin.

However, you should not mistake Wei Wen for anything other than a thoroughly committed sportsperson, despite his relaxed demeanour. Having competed in prestigious international meets throughout his career, he has hopes of taking fencing in Singapore to greater heights.

Wei Wen’s remarkability stems from much more than just his athletic prowess. With a grounded value system and an unwavering devotion to his family, the fencer balances demanding training schedules and domestic life with dexterity.

Hailing from a disadvantaged background, Wei Wen was left under the care of his grandparents from a young age. His aunt, meanwhile, took it upon herself to help raise the self-professed former delinquent, even financing his sporting endeavours as he matured. Unsurprisingly, the fencer credited his guardians for most of his success.

When Wei Wen’s grandmother suffered a stroke in 2012, there was no hesitation on his part when it came to dropping all of his sporting commitments, and he took a year off fencing to devote his time entirely to taking care of his grandparents.

He returned to his sport just last March and went on to prove his mettle in the face of adversity, bagging a bronze medal at the 2014 Asian Games – Singapore’s first ever Asiad fencing medal.

Sharing how he had gotten started on the sport while at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) eight years prior to his crowning achievement, the jovial athlete had innocently believed that fencing was about building fences.

A year after he started fencing, he won his first major international accolade, attaining a bronze medal at the 2006 Thailand Open.

“That was one of my most precious moments in fencing, because that helped me believe that I could [succeed]. That was what kick-started my competitive spirit,” professed Wei Wen, who also features regularly at World and Asian Fencing Championships.

However, in spite of his many achievements, the tenacious athlete maintained that he does not compete for personal glory. He affirmed: “My main objective is to help the people around me, especially Singaporeans, who are our main supporters, to believe that we can make it [to the global top tiers].”

“[The Olympics] is not a dream anymore; it’s a goal that we can achieve. My teammates will also think that if I can do it, they can, too. And they’ll want to do it better.”

Unsurprisingly, Wei Wen is firm in his conviction that hard work triumphs all. With his sights set on an Olympics medal, he is certainly raring to face his opponents head-on, no matter how strong they might be.

“[My opponents may be] world champions, but I tell myself that they are human too. They are not unbeatable. Of course, I’ll respect their reputation, but in a match, everyone is the same. I have two hands and two arms, just like them,” he expressed.

With such inspiring and exemplary takes on life both on and off the fencing piste, it is apparent that Wei Wen has, despite some earlier difficulties, managed to achieve an ideal balance between the two very different realms that he holds dear.