Hong Kong fencers set their sights on breakthrough victory in Rio

City has never gone past the first round in an Olympics before but foilist Cheung Ka-long and women’s epeeist Vivian Kong could change all that

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 July, 2016, 6:56pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 July, 2016, 9:52pm

Hong Kong fencers are looking for a major breakthrough in the Olympic Games with two young athletes harbouring high hopes of success in Rio de Janeiro.

Never has an athlete from Hong Kong returned with victory in an Olympic bout, but 19-year-old Edgar Cheung Ka-long in the men’s foil and 22-year-old teammate Vivian Kong Man-wai, in the women’s epee, are being tipped to break that trend.

“We are not looking at the duo to win an Olympic medal as they still need more exposure at the highest level,” said fencing coach Zheng Zhaokang from the Sports Institute .

“But both of them have chances of winning a match and breaking new ground for Hong Kong. Of course, it also depends on the draw and who they are going to meet, whether they face an opponent that fits their style.”

Zheng said if the two fencers do well in Rio, they can look forward to a promising future.

“They still lack some of the exposure at the highest level and the Olympics will provide them the best possible environment so they can become a better quality fencer, capable of winning at the top level,” Zheng added.

Watch: Epee fencer Vivian Kong Man-wai explains why she took up the sport

Four years ago, Hong Kong sent six fencers to all individual events at the London Games, but they were unable to win a match.

The first Hong Kong fencing representative was at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

In total, only three fencers have qualified for Rio – including Lin Po-heung in the women’s foil.

Despite his tender age, Cheung is Asian champion after clinching the title in Wuxi in April after beating a number of top fencers in the region, including the 2012 Olympic champion Lei Sheng of China and Yuki Ota, the 2015 world champion from Japan who is also the 2008 Olympic Games silver medallist.

Ranked 20th in the world, Cheung will start in the round of 32 in Rio, the same stage as world number 17 Kong. Stanford University student Kong, who is in her third year studying international relations, won a bronze medal in the World Cup series in Italy in May.

Kong, 22, qualified for Rio by virtual of her world ranking while Cheung and Lin made it through the regional qualifiers.

“I have gained a lot more confidence after being crowned Asian champion but there is no pressure on me,” said Cheung, who just returned from a high intensity three-week training camp in China.

“This is my first Olympic Games and I can’t wait to start.”