World No. 1 Choi In-jung defeats reigning Korean No. 1 Song Se-ra for first individual gold at Asian Games

Two swords pointed in the same direction in Tokyo, Japan, two years ago, but in Hangzhou, China, they pointed at each other. Choi In-jung (33, Gyeryong City Hall) defeated her teammate Song Se-ra (30, Busan City Hall) to win gold in the women’s epee individual final at the Hangzhou Asian Games in a ‘family affair’ after 21 years.

Choi In-jung defeated Song Sera 9-8 in overtime in the final of the women’s epee individual event on Thursday at the Hangzhou Electronics University Gymnasium in Hangzhou, China. Choi and Song were teammates at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, where they shared the silver medal in the women’s epee team event. At the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, South Korea, Kim Hee-jung (48-GR) and Hyun Hee (47-SIL) faced off against each other in the women’s individual epee final.

The two players battled back and forth throughout the final, never getting closer than two points at any point. With the score tied at 5-5, Choi In-jung scored at the start of the third round to take a 6-5 lead, but Song Sera would score to pull one back, and so on until 8-8. Choi In-jung scored the first point in the extension to claim the victory.

It was her second Asian Games gold medal in three games. Choi had previously won silver in the team event and bronze in the individual event at both the 2014 Incheon and 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Games. Choi, who finished the 2021-2022 season ranked No. 1 in the world, shook off the disappointment of not reaching the podium for the second consecutive Asian Games in Hangzhou.

“I’m going to retire from the national team after this year,” Choi said after her gold medal victory. “I didn’t have any personal ambitions at this tournament, I just wanted to do my part in my position, and I’m happy that I did that.”

Choi In-jung will attempt to become the first Korean woman to win a double Asian Games epee title in 21 years. Kim Hee-jung was the only Korean female fencer to win both the individual and team titles in the Asian Games epee event at Busan in 2002.

Song Se-ra, currently ranked No. 1 in Korea and No. 2 in Asia, defeated Asian No. 1 Vivian Kong (29-Hong Kong-World No. 2) in the semifinals, but fell just one point short to Choi In-jung in the final, ending her first Asian Games campaign with a silver medal. The final of the 안전놀이터 women’s epee team event, where Choi In-jung and Song Sera will be looking at the same point of the sword, will take place at 8:05 p.m. on Sunday.

Meanwhile, in the men’s individual foil competition, Lee Kwang-hyun (30, Hwaseong City Hall) reached the quarterfinals while the rest of the field was eliminated early. It has been 45 years since Korea’s fencing team finished with a ‘no medal’ in the men’s foil event at an Asian Games since the 1978 Bangkok Games.

On Friday, Koo Bon-gil (34, Korea Sports Promotion Organization) will attempt to win his fourth straight men’s sabre title. There will also be an individual women’s foil competition.

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