Olympically, Kiria Tikanah of Singapore gives world No. 1 Popescu a run for her money.
A. Popescu Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
On the piste at the Makuhari Messe Hall on the morning of July 24th, Singapore’s Kiria Tikanah Abdul Rahman faced off against Romania’s world No. 1 Ana Maria Popescu.
One point separated them with only 35 seconds left in their women’s solo table of 32 match at the Olympics.
When qualifying for the Olympics in April, Kiria, then 21 years old, upset several higher-ranked opponents and advanced to the Tokyo Games.
On Saturday, she nearly won her biggest victory to this point as she brought the score to 10-11.
However, the 36-year-old Popescu kept her Cool and Won 15-10 in a Fight of Nerves.
Popescu had more Olympic medals (two) than Kiria has Olympic bouts (one) prior to their matchup.
A minute later, with beads of sweat still running down her forehead, Kiria explained, “At the end I was rushing a bit because I wanted to keep the momentum up (after scoring two straight points) and also because… I didn’t have a lot of time left.
This is what she had learned from her past jobs. “She took advantage of my haste because she anticipated it.”
While Popescu’s experience was crucial to her success (she won silver in the individual epee competition at the Beijing Games and gold on the team circuit in Rio eight years later), Kiria also gained some insight at these Tokyo Games.
The second-year chemistry student at National University of Singapore said she had the “eye-opening experience” of sparring with Popescu at a training session on Wednesday, and that she “badly” lost the five-point bout.
Henry Koh, Kiria’s instructor, thinks that even after their brief training encounter with Popescu, one of the most well-rounded epee fencers, Kiria’s tactical knowledge and mental toughness “went up another half-level” on Saturday.
“Given the short time frame of three days, can you reasonably expect to make significant gains in strength or skill? He pointed to his head and remarked, “No, it’s up here that’s different.”
Kiria showed resilience and defeated Coco Lin of Hong Kong, ranked 90th in the world, 15-11 in a table of 64 match earlier that morning.
She was already down 2-0 in the first set of their match in Tokyo, and the Singaporean had lost both of their previous competitive meetings against each other during the previous five years. However, she kept her cool, won the first of three rounds, and held on to her advantage the entire time.
After being down, Kiria stated she was pleased of herself for keeping her cool and “freaking out on the inside” but yet “had the bravery to execute my own actions and not to worry about the outcome of the match.”
Kiria’s two fights at the Olympics may have killed her Olympic hopes, but they have only fueled her dedication to the sport.
While playing against one of the finest players in the world, she felt confident when the score was 11-10. “Being able to share the (stage) with world champions was a pretty fantastic experience,” I said, “so I wasn’t too bothered about losing the match.”