After swim struggles, Constance Lien finally wins gold in jiu-jitsu

Singapore jiu-jitsu athlete Constance Lien battles Vietnam's Nguyan Ngoc Tu in the women's U-62kg final. (PHOTO: Sport Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Constance Lien’s quest for SEA Games gold had seen her struggle in a swimming career earlier in her life. And when she switched to jiu-jitsu, the sport was not contested at the biennial Games – until this year.

And so, in a roundabout way – after she won an Asian Games silver last year and then the World Championships title this May – the Singaporean has finally laid her hands on a precious SEA Games gold medal on Tuesday (10 December).

She defeated Vietnam’s Nguyen Ngoc Tu by submission to clinch her women’s Under-62kg final at the LausGroup Event Center in New Clark City.

Upon winning her final bout, Lien pointed skywards before kneeling to the ground, overwhelmed with emotion. It has certainly been a roller-coaster ride for the 20-year-old, who had to endure the disappointment of not making the SEA Games contingent as recently as 2015.

“It’s been a roller-coaster of emotions but I’m very blessed to have made it to finals with my coach, teammates and association behind me,” Lien said after her win.

“I wouldn’t be in this position without them and am glad I managed to achieve my goal of winning the gold medal for Singapore. I’m definitely planning to compete at the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Championships in 2020 as a purple belt next.”

Singapore jiu-jitsu world champion Constance Lien celebrates winning her women's U-62kg final at the SEA Games. (PHOTO: Sport Singapore)

Her current success in jiu-jitsu is a far cry from when she battled confidence issues as an aspiring swimmer.

It took such a toll on her mental health that she decided to take an extended break from swimming in 2015. It was then that she picked up jiu-jitsu at Evolve Mixed Martial Arts Academy and eventually transformed her sporting career.

“Constance has grown so much since she started training jiu-jitsu with me,” Teco Shinzato, the national jiu-jitsu team coach, told Yahoo News Singapore.

“I truly believe she has the potential to be a black-belt world champion someday. She has a lot to be proud of and I believe she will lead the charge and take jiu-jitsu to new levels for women in the sport in Asia. She is one of the best athletes I have ever had the opportunity to teach.”

Lien’s gold medal was the second in the sport by a Singaporean athlete, after 17-year-old Noah Lim also won his men’s U-62kg final on Monday.

Two other Singaporeans won bronze medals on Tuesday – Fiona Toh (women’s U-55kg) and Kwan Yan Wei (men’s U-77kg).

“I feel really proud to have won a bronze medal but I feel like I could have done so much better, especially in my second match where I made a couple of mistakes and let my opponent get ahead of me,” Toh said.

“Competition is a lot more of a mental challenge for me than a physical one, as I’ve been training at Evolve MMA for 5 years now and constantly try to improve my game in all physical aspects. I do have plans to compete next year but for now, I will take a break to calm and strengthen my mind for future competitions.”

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