Fencing team secure Intercity Games glory
Hong Kong's fencers excelled themselves at last month's National Intercity Games, in Ganzhou, Jiangxi, where they won the bronze medal in the men's foil team event. The medal was Hong Kong's first at the Games.
Four of Hong Kong's top-five-ranked Under-20 fencers took part: Calugi Yeung Chi-ka, ranked one; Nicholas Choi, ranked two, Howie Chan Ho-yin, ranked three, and Michael Tam Yuk-wang, ranked five.
Calugi and Nicholas are full-time fencers; Howie and Michael, both 17, are Form Six students at Diocesan Boys' School and La Salle College, respectively. The foursome has competed together before: they won bronze at this year's Under-20 men's foil team event at the Asian Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships, in Bangkok, Thailand.
Three of the team left for Ganzhou on October 15, but Nicholas, 18, arrived later because he was competing at the World Championships at Catania, Italy.
In his debut at a major senior tournament, he progressed from the qualifying rounds to the last 64 and, in doing so, also gained some world-ranking points. 'This success certainly boosted my confidence before the Games,' Nicholas says.
Hong Kong's fencers competed in the individual foil event first, with a jetlagged Nicholas finishing sixth, Calugi in the last 16, Michael in the last 32 and Howie being beaten in the group stage.
The team event involves three fencers contesting nine games in rotation. The first team to score 45points over the nine games wins the match. A reserve fencer can substitute any teammate before the start of a game.
Hong Kong beat Yuxi, in Yunnan, to reach the last eight, where they faced Nanjing, one of the favourites.
'We knew it was going to be tough; Nanjing were seeded second, but we built an early lead,' Howie says. 'Although Nanjing fought back to take the lead, we stayed within three points of them. Calugi claimed a great 8-1 win in the second-to-last game before Nicholas secured overall victory in the last game.'
In the semi-final, Hong Kong took on another tough side Fuzhou, from Fujian - a team that had beaten them at both the 2009 and 2010 National Youth Fencing Championships. 'We lost again, even though we didn't feel any pressure and were eager to win,' Howie says.
The team's disappointment made them determined to win a medal when they faced Shanghai in the bronze-medal match.
'Hong Kong have never won any fencing medal at the Intercity Games before,' Michael says. 'We didn't expect to win a medal this time, so it was great to be a part of history.'
Calugi, a former student at Lam Tai Fai College, says he has improved as a fencer since turning professional. 'Fencing full time has made a difference. This competition showed I've got better thanks to lots of hard work and extra training.'
The four fencers still have two more years to compete as a team at Under-20 national, continental and world events. Howie says: 'Next year, although Michael and I need to take the HKDSE exam, we will still be able to compete at October's Asian Junior Fencing Championships.'