S’pore Teen Fencer Elle Koh Won SEA Games Gold Medal Motivated by a Cat


Different people have different ways of motivating themselves.

For instance, my parents motivated me to study by threatening to take away my laptop and gaming time if I didn’t do well in Mother Tongue examinations in Secondary School.

Safe to say, I did fairly well.

For 14-year-old fencer Elle Koh, the gold medallist for the Women’s Individual Epee Competition for the 31st South-East Asian (SEA) Games, her motivation was a cat.

Image: youtube.com (CNA)

Elle Koh: I Always Wanted A Pet

For Elle Koh, you could practically say that fencing runs in her blood.

Her mother is the President of Fencing Singapore Juliana Seow, while her father, Henry Koh, was a former competing athlete then national coach for epee.

After winning Singapore’s second gold for the 2022 Hanoi SEA Games, Elle told the reporters that she had always wanted a pet, either a pet or a dog.

Her parents promised her that if she managed to win a medal (in an individual tournament) overseas, they would get one for her.

Talk about high standards, jeez.

However, before the SEA Games happened, an adoption drive came up in late December of last year.

Elle didn’t want to let go of the chance and somehow convinced her parents to let her get her dream cat in advance, whom she calls Cookie, possibly after the brown and orange patches on her pet’s fur.

Image: Juliana Seow

Although she got her reward first, the Fencer Debutant kept her end of the bargain last Friday (13 May) when she clutched the gold medal in the finals of the individual epee competition.

The Turnaround and Sudden Death

The match itself at the My Dinh Indoor Games Gymnasium had been intense.

In the last minute of the nine-minute match, the scoreboard read: Kiria Tikanah 11, Elle Koh 9.

The stakes were incredibly high; her final opponent was the defending champion and fellow Singaporean, Kiria Tikanah, aged 21.

Kiria is also her roommate, close friend, and rival.


They’ve had their fair share of bouts, and Koh was two points behind.

All of a sudden, Elle let out a shout and gained a point.

The fencing duo went back to their starting positions, poised and tense.

The young teenager, who had been reticent for most of the final, rode on the adrenaline rush and lunged forward with another scream, seizing another point to even out the scores, 11 to 11, forcing the bout into sudden death.

Her next point was accompanied by a final shout, victoriously loud, as it settled the match in her favour and earned her the gold medal.

Image: youtube.com (CNA)

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The Ups and Downs of Koh’s Debut

Truth to be told, Elle Koh almost failed to qualify for the individual event which she won on Friday.

Henry Koh, the national epee partner coach, remarked that her qualifiers hadn’t been very smooth, until it came down to the very last event and bout.

He might be her father, but he didn’t hold back on his thoughts. He elaborated that there was a possibility that one of her competitors would catch up to her and she would have to attend the Games in the team event instead of the individual one.

Nonetheless, Elle Koh still has a long career ahead of her as she turns 15 this year; she’s the second youngest at the games, with only diver Max Lee being two months younger than her.

In the preliminary round of the event, Elle won two of her four bouts, but admits that it had been a struggle early on.

“In the pools (portion of the event), I was worried about getting hit and I definitely had the wrong mentality,” Elle said.


She explained that she was “trying not to lose instead of trying to win”, and her attitude wasn’t the best. She was genuinely upset and disappointed at herself for not having the right mindset.

Fortunately, after internalising the advice and instructions from her coach and peers, she managed to find her footing.

She clutched the semi-finals against Vietnam’s Hong Vu Thi with a score of 15 to 14, while Kiria had won against Thailand’s Korawan Thanee 15 to 12.

Elle’s first victory is quite significant in her family too.

Her father had obtained his individual bronze in the men’s foil event when he was competing for Singapore.


In a funny coincidence, he had won his bronze medal at the 2003 Games in Vietnam too, just four years before his daughter was born.

For Elle, she thinks it’s a “fun, happy fact” that her first medal was obtained in Hanoi, Vietnam.

A celebration is definitely in order, both for past and present victories, while Elle tries not to think too much about the difference in colours.

If anything, her father should be ecstatic that his own daughter one-upped him, with the hashtag #superiorgenes or something.

Alas, Elle confesses that there will be a lot more pressure after her victory at the 2022 Hanoi SEA Games, and promises that she’ll continue to give her utmost effort while trying not to be too hard on herself.

For now, she can cuddle with her gold medal and dear cat Cookie as she basks in the sweetness of victory.

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Featured Image: YouTube (CNA)