Singapore teenagers fight Virtual Taekwondo; Nigel Tan beats Natalie Tor to become Olympic Esports Series winner

In the battle of two 14-year-olds, Nigel Tan of Singapore overcame Natalie Tor of Singapore, becoming the Olympic Esports Series winner in Virtual Taekwondo. It was a hard road to the final for Nigel, who had to beat Olympic champion Nur Tatar of Türkiye on the way.

Nigel Tan of Singapore becomes Olympic Esports Series winner in Virtual Taekwondo. Photo courtesy: Facebook/Singapore Taekwondo Federation

The final took place on Sunday, at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre. The four-day Olympic Esports Week reportedly had 20,000 spectators in all. Nigel’s win was applauded with a long post and photographs on Facebook by the Singapore Taekwondo Federation.

Nigel Tan fights Natalie Tor in the final. Screenshot courtesy: YouTube/Olympics
Nigel Tan fights Nur Tatar on his way to the final. Screenshot courtesy: YouTube/Olympics

Congratulating the top three athletes of the week, the post said: “After overcoming Nur Tatar, three-time Olympian from Türkiye in the semi-finals, congratulations to Tan Wei Reng Nigel for defeating Natalie Tor En Xing in the finals to become the inaugural Virtual Taekwondo Champion! Congratulations also to Natalie for taking the silver trophy after also having to overcome Wu Jingyu, four-time Olympian and two-time gold medalist from the People’s Republic of China. Congratulations as well to Wu Jingyu who became the first Olympian to win a Esport trophy after overcoming Nur Tatar in the bronze placing match.”

Virtual Taekwondo is quite remarkable, because skills displayed in a particular match are the only things that matter — age, gender, and weight are not factors of classification. For instance, Nur is 31 and a veteran of real taekwondo whereas Nigel is 14 and relatively less experienced, though also a real taekwondo practitioner.

From left to right: Broze winner Wu Jingyu, 21, of China; Gold winner Nigel Tan, 14, of Singapore; Silver winner Natalie Tor, 14, of Singapore. Photo courtesy: Facebook/Singapore Taekwondo Federation

The virtual bouts involve Augmented Reality (AR) headsets and the digital avatars of the competitors fighting it out, their moves visible on a screen. Motion trackers are placed on the Virtual Taekwondo fighters’ hands, back, knees, and shins, so that their movements and the power of the kicks can be accurately measured.

Each Virtual Taekwondo competitor gets a health bar (2,000 points) and has 90 seconds to knock out (KO) the other opponent. The KO is achieved if and when the opponent’s health bar point becomes zero.

After winning the trophy, Nigel acknowledged that his rival Natalie packed a punch, and that she was “superfast in the first round”, but perhaps lost her momentum in the next two rounds, which is when he could “try and get some kicks in”.

Like Nur, who has won several medals in the real-world Olympics, and also the World Championship and European Championship, Nigel has hopes of getting there someday. His compatriot opponent Natalie, too, beat a more experienced Wu Jingwu, 21, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in real taekwondo.

With their Esports feat, the two teenagers have made their schools proud, too. The Straits Times reported that Nigel was in Temasek Secondary School, and Natalie was in Unity Secondary School.

The Olympics Esports Week was created by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in partnership with the Singapore Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth; Sport Singapore; and the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC).

The Singapore Taekwondo Federation’s Facebook post said: “Besides thanking all 16 athletes for their passionate efforts both on and off the stage, we will like to thank IOC, World Taekwondo, SNOC, SportSG, the Organising Committee, and Refract Technologies for organising the OEW! We will also like to thank the legends for participating and sharing their invaluable experience with our youth athletes, and Mr Lai Han Seng and Ms Fong Yee Min for being referees for the event.

“Last but not least, we will like to thank the Taekwondo fraternity for your unwavering support, and family and friends for their support and care. We will also like to thank Mr Lawrence Wong, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore; Mr Tan Chuan Jin, President of SNOC; and Mr Alvin Tan, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth for your encouragements!”