Mission accomplished: Hong Kong fencer Cheung Ka-long wins Asian title after securing Olympic berth
The 18-year-old beat the London gold medallist and a world champion on the way to the regional gold
Promising fencer Cheung Ka-long has vowed to keep his feet on the ground after becoming Asian champion at 18 and earning the right to represent Hong Kong at this year’s Olympic Games in Rio.
Cheung returned from Wuxi, China on Sunday after his best week in fencing as he became the first-ever gold medallist from Hong Kong at the regional championships – less than two years after starting full-time training.
“I don’t know how to describe my feelings after such an wonderful week,” said the young fencer who won the individual foil event in China – en route defeating a world champion, an Olympic gold medallist and one junior world champion. “I am just like over the moon and still wonder if it is true.
“I have asked my teammates how long they spent in fencing before winning an [individual] Asian Championships medal and it is only Cheung Siu-lun who has won a bronze medal in the current team and he has been there almost 10 years.
“It’s something I could never imagine before I left [for China]. But I know clearly this is just the beginning as there are many things I need to learn as a fencer in the senior category.
“I need to improve my speed, my skills and my power especially against Western fencers if I want to stay competitive in the sport at the highest level.”
Cheung’s glorious week started with the zonal qualifying tournament for the 2016 Rio Games when the world number 24 secured the only berth in his event after cruising to a 15-4 victory over Ou Feng-ming, of Taiwan, in the final.
“There has been a lot of pressure since January after knowing I have to compete in the qualifiers because there is only one spot available in my event,” he said. “There is no room for any mistake even if I was quite confident. After taking the berth, it was like all the pressure was released and I was able to go through a carefree Asian Championships and the result was just amazing.”
In the regional event, Cheung finished first in his pool to reach the round of 32 where he beat Heo Jun, of South Korea, who has four Asian titles under his belt.
After a tough victory, Cheung then overcame China’s Lei Sheng, the London gold medallist. In the final, he beat another 18 year-old fencer, Japan’s Takahiro Shikine – the reigning world junior champion – 15-14 score after trailing 14-10.
“I didn’t expect a medal after looking at the tough draw in the knockout stages,” he said. “But since I had nothing to lose after winning the Olympic berth, I was able to take it bout by bout, round by round and the results came my way.”
Cheung now hopes to have more overseas training camps before making his Olympic debut in Rio. “We are used to playing against Asian fencers and need more exposure against the Westerners if we want to do well in the Olympics,” he said. “But I have no target in Rio and just want to enjoy the Olympic Games. After all, this is my first and I will look forward to more in future.”