I’ll come back stronger next time, vows Hong Kong fencer Edgar Cheung after taking silver

Fast rising fencer fails to perform in the final stage as he loses his crown at the Asian Championships but promises to deliver in Sunday’s men’s team foil event

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 June, 2017, 10:24pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 June, 2017, 1:43am

Fast rising Hong Kong fencer Edgar Cheung Ka-long was stopped in his tracks in his own backyard after he was forced to settle for a silver in men’s individual foil at the Asian championships on Thursday night – but he vowed to come back stronger in the men’s team event.

Cheung swooped into the final and was heavy favourite to retain his regional title won last year in Wuxi, China, but the recently turned 20-year-old failed to meet expectations before crashing to a disappointing 15-11 defeat against Ha Tae-gyu of South Korea, letting down fans who had travelled to AsiaWorld-Expo to witness Hong Kong’s first-ever regional fencing event.

“I feel a bit sorry for losing in the final although silver is not a bad result,” said a disappointed Cheung. “I have gained experience and I should come back better in the team event on Sunday.

“We [Hong Kong] have been team bronze medallists during the last 10 Asian Championships and I am confident we will break through and win gold.”

What a year it has been for Cheung. He became world junior champion in April in Plovdiv, Bulgaria before receiving a massive boost by winning bronze against the big boys at the World Cup meeting in St Petersburg, Russia in May. He also won two training events in China as a build-up to this event.

But somehow, despite full medical and sports science support that included a sports psychologist, the world No 8, couldn’t cope with the pressure of competing before a home crowd.

The only top-10 fencer among the entries, left-handed Cheung marched into his second consecutive Asian Championships final after routing another South Korean Son Young-ki 15-9 in the semi-finals and looked a shoo-in for another Asian title.

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But the youngster found himself 4-0 down in the opening stages and although he rallied to reduce arrears to 12-11, the Korean, who is ranked 25th in the world, rode the momentum to seal victory.

“I was a bit tense from the beginning as I had to compete in the pool stages, which is usually not required at World Cup level. I also felt tired towards the end,” he said.

Cheung, however, played down the pressure of performing in front of a home crowd.

“I enjoyed it when fans chanted my name in Cantonese and cheered for me. This has never happened to me in any overseas competition before,” he said.

Head coach Zheng Zhaokang said Cheung was still learning. “He is only 20 and he still has a lot to learn. Certainly he can come back stronger.

“He did not start [the final] well, trailing by a considerable margin. There were many reasons for that. Perhaps he felt the pressure. But it’s not a big problem. He certainly has plenty of room for improvement,” said the coach. “The Hong Kong team will be targeted by South Korea, China, Japan and Hong Kong. Any team has a chance to win.”

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In the women’s sabre, former junior world champion Karen Chang Ngai-hing scored the best result for the hosts by reaching the quarter-finals. The 20-year-old lost to long-time rival Yu Xinting of China 15-9 but had already achieved her best result in the zonal championships after two straight last-16 places in previous events.

Chang won all her six matches in the pool before reaching the last eight with a 15-8 victory over Tatyana Prikhodko of Kazakhstan 15-8.

“I am quite happy with my performances ... until the quarter-finals,” said Chang, who is now studying at Pennsylvania University in the United States . “I could not score the necessary points as expected in the match against Yu. Perhaps I still need to improve my mental strength.

“My training in the States has helped and even though I fenced in front of the home crowd, I do not feel any pressure.”

Against Yu, a member of the Incheon Asian Games team silver medallist, Chang was playing catch-up. The mainlander took a 4-0 lead before extending her lead to 8-6 before the break. Yu then upped the tempo, taking four points on the trot to wrap up the bout.

The two other Hong Kong fencers fared well, too. Ho Siu-in was narrowly defeated by Aibike Khabibullina of Kazakhstan 15-13 in the last 16, while Lam Hin-wai was beaten by Kim Ji-yeon of South Korea 15-6. Kim, the 2012 London Olympic champion, went on to beat teammate Seo Ji-yeon 15-11 in the final.