Hong Kong is one of the smaller Asian Games teams by population, but when it comes to fencing the territory is a regional heavyweight with ambitious medal hopes.
Edgar Cheung won gold at the Tokyo Games two years ago — Hong Kong’s first Olympic fencing title and first Olympic gold in any sport in 25 years.
It turned Cheung into a celebrity overnight and prompted parents across the territory to rush and sign their children up for fencing classes.
Cheung’s historic win in the foil competition was a much-needed dose of good news for a territory mired in social unrest and COVID-19 gloom at the time.
With more funding and public attention as a result, Cheung and his teammates now hope to stamp their mark on the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, which open on Saturday.
Despite a good record at recent editions, including eight medals in the sport in 2018, Hong Kong has yet to win fencing gold at the Asian Games.
“No matter for individual or team events, I hope we can [win gold at last],” 26-year-old Cheung said.
Hong Kong is to have 24 fencers, 12 women and 12 men, at the Games.
Another gold-medal contender is 29-year-old Vivian Kong, who is ranked No. 2 in the world in women’s epee.
There is also Ryan Choi, who along with Cheung was part of the Hong Kong team that won bronze in the men’s team foil at the Fencing World Championships in July.
Cheung said the Hong Kong team have “improved greatly” since the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.
The left-hander, who has recovered from a recent wrist injury, said that he wanted to “prove to our competitors they need to beware of us.”
Fencing in the territory stretches back decades, to when Hong Kong was a British colony, with its amateur fencing association founded in 1949.
The territory had occasional success in the early 2000s, but it was the 2010 Asian Games, where Hong Kong fencers won seven medals, that first established them as a regional powerhouse.
Local organizers made efforts to popularize the sport, bringing classes to schools and community hubs over the past two decades — that is where Cheung had his first taste of fencing.
Fencers also benefited from a reform to Hong Kong’s pipeline for discovering and training talent which allowed Cheung to devote himself to the sport full-time when he was 17 with his parents’ blessing.
Cheung’s final bout at the Tokyo Olympics drew hundreds of fans who crowded into a Hong Kong mall to watch the live broadcast, popping champagne corks after he emerged victorious.
Days later, then-Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam announced more funding for elite Hong Kong athletes, including an expansion to the fencing hall at the institute where Cheung trains.
Gregory Koenig, who previously coached in his native France and also Taiwan, began working with Hong Kong’s fencers five years ago, and has developed a close relationship with Cheung.
He had a warning for Hong Kong’s star, who has slipped to seventh in the men’s foil world rankings.
“When you’re Olympic champion it’s very hard because everybody has an eye on you and everybody’s fighting hard against you,” Koenig said.
“Okay, do you think you reached the maximum level and you want to stop here? Or are you still motivated for more?” Koenig said he asked Cheung. “He told me: ‘No, I really want to put my name in the history of fencing.’”
BASEBALL LEGEND: Sadaharu Oh, who flew against his doctor’s advice to throw the first pitch at the Taipei Dome, said he had high expectations for baseball in Taiwan Taiwan yesterday defeated South Korea 4-0 in the opening game of the Asian Baseball Championship in front of a crowd of more than 16,000 at the newly opened Taipei Dome. The team was led by a starting pitcher Hsu Ruo-hsi, who in a dominant performance recroded 10 strikeouts and allowed only two hits in seven scoreless innings on the mound. Eighteen-year-old Sun I-lei came to close out the final two innings, ensuring that Taiwan hung on to their four-run lead, after scoring three runs in the third inning and another in the fourth. The eight-day championship is to take place
NIGHT OF FIRSTS: In the first official game at the Tapei Dome on Sunday, not only did Taiwan notch a win over South Korea, they also recorded the stadium’s first hit and RBI The Philippines yesterday dominated Thailand 14-4 at the Taipei Dome in the opening game of Group B on the second day of the Asian Baseball Championship, while Palestine pipped Hong Kong 3-1 in Taichung in Group A. World No. 35 the Philippines put themselves on the board early, racking up two runs in the first inning, followed by two in the third, one each in the fourth and fifth, and three in the sixth. Thailand, ranked 43rd in the world, did not get on the board until the top of the seventh inning, when they tried to stage a comeback, putting up
TROUNCED: Taiwan beat Palestine in six innnings on day three of the Asia Baseball Championship, while it took just five innings for Japan to defeat Thailand Taiwan yesterday beat Palestine 19-0 at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium on the third day of the Asian Baseball Championship. The Group A game was over in six innings after a 6:03pm start. Taiwan went on the offensive from the first inning, scoring three runs, but the real damage was done in the third inning, when they scored seven. The Palestine players are all studying or working in the US. In another duel between two unevenly matched teams, Japan thrashed Thailand 16-0 in their late Group B game at the Taipei Dome. They won in five innings thanks to the mercy rule, which states
NATIONS LEAGUE: England crushed Scotland 6-0, but their Olympic hopes were ruined when the Netherlands beat them on goal difference with a 4-0 win against Belgium Germany and the Netherlands on Tuesday booked their places at the UEFA Women’s Nations League finals , where they are also to fight for spots at next year’s Paris Games, but there was heartbreak for England whose hopes of competing in the Olympics were dashed, despite beating Scotland 6-0. Germany drew 0-0 in Wales, but secured their passage thanks to Iceland’s 1-0 win over Denmark. The Netherlands needed a 95th-minute goal from Damaris Egurrola to see them to a 4-0 win over Belgium which meant they edged England on goal difference in Group A1 after the FIFA Women’s World Cup runners-up hammered