In the past, fencers used to look down on their South Korean foe Song Se-ra, not only figuratively but literally as well.
Song is listed at 164 centimeters, tiny by fencing standards. Song, world No. 5 in women's epee, gives 21 cm to the top-ranked Marie-Florence Candassamy of France. Song is the shortest one among the top-10 female epee fencers in the world today.
However, at the 2022 World Fencing Championships in Cairo, no one stood taller than Song. She won gold medals in both the individual and team epee events, becoming the first South Korean female fencer to grab two titles at a world championship.
Song, 29, hasn't had any growth spurt lately. But she believes her competitors' perception of her has changed as she kept collecting international medals left and right. And Song is determined to keep proving doubters wrong at the upcoming Asian Games in China.
"There were times when some foreign fencers didn't take me seriously because I am so short," Song said Thursday at the National Training Center in Jincheon, North Chungcheong Province. She spoke before an open training session for the media, organized by the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee to mark the 30-day countdown to the Hangzhou Asian Games.
"When I look back on some of the moves I made at the world championships last year, I was able to pull them off precisely because of my short stature," Song continued. "The way I compete, I rely quite a bit on my footwork. Just because you're tall, that doesn't mean you're a good fencer."
Song will enter the Asian Games as the second highest-ranked epee fencer in the continent, behind Vivian Kong of Hong Kong, world No. 2. Song defeated Kong in the semifinals of the 2022 world championships, but the South Korean said Kong and Sun Yiwen of China, the next-best Asian fencer in the world rankings at No. 9, are still the ones to watch in Hangzhou.
"I think I might have been exposed too much, and my rivals have figured me out," Song said. "I'll have to counter that and study their video closely."
Song predicted China will be South Korea's biggest obstacle in the team event, though she isn't afraid of the host country.
South Korea defeated China in the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 en route to capturing silver, and Song said South Korea has gone undefeated against China since.
"We always have confidence against China," she said. "But we still have to look out for them because they're the host country this time. We have to be prepared for anything."
Song is dealing with an Achilles tendon injury, a condition that held her back at her world title defense last month in Italy. She lost to Sun in the round of 16 and watched the Chinese take home bronze.
"With this Achilles injury, rest is the best medicine, but I can't afford not to train at this point," Song said. "So I've been getting treatment along the way. Just as I won the world titles last year, I will go for gold medals at the Asian Games. I want to show people that I may be the shortest fencer but I can still reach the top of the podium." (Yonhap)