Fencing star Cheung Ka-long gave Hong Kong a lift with his historic gold medal win at last year’s Tokyo Olympics. His dramatic victory in the men’s individual foil secured the city’s second ever gold, boosting the sport’s popularity. Cheung has since shown this was not a fluke. Last week, he secured the coveted No 1 world ranking. The 24-year-old described this feat as the fulfilment of a childhood dream. He will now seek to break new ground by winning a gold medal at the Asian Games in Hangzhou in September. Cheung’s achievements have been built on years of hard work. But he and his fellow fencers, like all elite athletes, have also needed financial assistance and support. Fencing receives the highest level of government assistance available, as one of 20 Tier A elite sports. Membership of this exclusive club is not, however, guaranteed. It depends on continued success. And while the fencing fraternity celebrates Cheung’s successes, other sports fear they will lose their “elite” status, with catastrophic results. Snooker is facing the loss of its Tier A ranking, held since 2009, and a resulting cut in funding and support. Star player Marco Fu Ka-chun even sent a text message to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to express his concerns. The sport is hoping the decision will be reversed or top-level status extended. Decisions on which sports enjoy the highest ranking must be based on clear and transparent criteria. But there is also a need for some flexibility. The problem snooker faces is that billiard sports have not featured in the Asian Games since 2010. They are, however, due to make a return in 2030. Similar concerns apply to gymnastics and tennis. Both were destined to lose their Tier A status for failing to fulfil the criteria. The gymnasts are just short of the 10 points needed from their performances at international competitions. Tennis, meanwhile, reached the required total but failed to win a medal at the 2018 Asian Games or to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. ‘A huge blow’: Hong Kong Sports Institute drops snooker as Tier A sport The two sports appear to have been given a reprieve, with the review period set to be extended until next year. This will give the athletes concerned another opportunity to perform well and meet the requirements. Many sporting events have been cancelled as a result of Covid-19, making it more difficult for sports to meet the criteria for elite status. There needs to be some understanding in these difficult times, so an extension of the review period makes sense. Hong Kong’s success in Tokyo, winning four medals, prompted the government to pledge more funding and speed up the building of new training facilities. With sufficient support and the building of a broader sports culture, the city can build a base for future success.