A perfect foil: HK fencer defends gold title

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 September, 2008, 12:00am
 

Paralympic champion Chan takes less than a minute to defeat opponent

Hong Kong's veteran wheelchair fencer Chan Yui-chong defended her foil gold title yesterday with an impressive display of swordsmanship, defeating her opponent in less than one minute.

Twenty-five-year-old Chan was up against China's Yao Fang in the final of the category B individual foil event and was leading 10-1 30 seconds into the game. Yao caught up, but Chan rode out her strong lead to finish the bout in 49 seconds, winning 15-8.

'For a moment when she caught up, I was at a loss and didn't know what to do. Then, I suddenly woke up and concentrated again on how to win the next point,' said Chan, who has a congenital paralysis condition that has kept her in a wheelchair since she was 10.

Initially attracted to fencing because of the 'cool' white uniform, she has become an integral part of Hong Kong's team, winning four medals in Athens, including a gold in foil and a silver in the epee individual fencing event.

But wearing a pair of yellow spectacles even when fencing, the softly spoken Chan looks more like a teacher than a sword-wielding fighter. In fact she is a full-time accounting clerk, a job that does not stop her from training three hours a day, five days a week.

She also enjoys swimming, which she says helps her control her breathing during matches.

'It may seem like I won easily but my opponent is actually very strong,' Chan said. 'She only lacked experience.'

This is the China women's wheelchair fencing team's first appearance at the Paralympics. China's Ye Hua won bronze in the same event.

Despite winning 14 medals in Athens, Hong Kong fencers struggled in two other events yesterday.

Athens gold medallist Hui Charn-hung lost 11-15 to Hungary's Pal Szekeres in the quarter finals of the category B individual foil event, while 23-year-old Paralympics first-timer Chan Wing-kin upset Dariusz Pender of Poland 15-9, bronze medallist in Athens Paralympics, to clinch the bronze medal in the category A individual foil event.

China's fencers won in these two events. Hu Daoliang clinched gold in the former, while 21-year-old Ye Ruyi and his teammate Zhang Lei secured the gold and silver in the latter.

Hong Kong coach Zheng Zhaokang said the China team was Hong Kong's strongest opponent. 'The China team is really strong, whether it's their sports system or training methods. I consider it very satisfactory we managed to snatch a gold playing against two strong China fencers,' she said.

The Hong Kong 'white warriors' will find it hard to break their own medal records at this Gamesbecause the cancellation of the team events means Hong Kong has lost five chances of winning gold.

The change in the scoring this year also means a technique that Hong Kong fencers are good at - throwing hits - is no longer valid.

Fencers such as Hui Charn-hung lost out because of this change in the rules, coach Zheng said.

Despite the start of the epee events today, the fencers were still planning to stay up last night to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. There would be no elaborate dinner but the Hong Kong Paralympic team would be sharing mooncakes and fruit in the athlete's village.

The Hong Kong team had won two golds, one silver and one bronze by yesterday, boosting its position on the medal table to 34th place.

China won its 200th Paralympic medal, wrapping up the day with a tally of 63 golds, 54 silvers and 42 bronzes for this year's Games.

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