Vivian Kong makes history for Hong Kong as she wins team’s first-ever Olympics fencing match
Stanford student beats former world champion as Games kick off, but goes down fighting to Italian star
The Olympics kicked off with a small piece of history for Hong Kong, as fencer Vivian Kong Man-wai won a first-ever match at this level.
And though she lost in the last 16 to the reigning world champion, Kong promised she’ll be back to fly the Bauhinia again in 2020 and go even further.
The 22-year-old epee fighter, who took a year off from studies at Stanford University to focus on the Games, first beat Lyubov Shutova 15-10 in the impressive Carioca 3 Arena at the Olympic Park.
And though she apologised to fans, there was no shame in a narrow defeat 15-11 to Rosella Fiamingo, world champion the last two years.
Kong, whose parents and best friend from college were cheering her on in the raucous arena, admitted she found it hard to hold back the tears as her name was announced for her Olympics debut.
“The experience was amazing it really is nothing I’ve ever experienced before,” she said. “I’m just so proud to be representing Hong Kong.
“Especially when they shouted out my name to do the salute, I felt like I wasn’t very professional at it, it was very emotional finally being here after all these years and all the imaginations of what it might be like.
“I’m sad it’s over but I’m really looking forward to the next Olympics and just hope I can do better.
“I didn’t really think about being the first [HK fencing winner], but there’ll be more tomorrow, [Edgar Cheung Ka-long] is great.
“It’s an honour to be the first but I’m still sad I lost the second bout.”
Kong gave her Italian opponent a major scare, taking a 6-3 lead midway through the second round before Fiamingo put her on the defensive and reeled off five touches in a row to take the lead.
At 14-9 down- match-point - in the third, Kong gave her supporters hopes of a comeback by winning the next two points but Fiamingo closed it out safely.
With a Brazilian fencer in action on a nearby piste, the noise in arena was deafening for both bouts, but Kong maintained her concentration superbly.
“Yes I think I could have won, but she fenced really, really well and I wasn’t able to control the timing right. I rushed it too much, she was very patient, she changed her strategy and I didn’t change mine in time.
“I think I started getting defensive and less focused on attacking and getting the point and she became the one on the offensive.
Earlier, she had seen off Subutova, world champ in 2009, with an impressive attacking display in the third after two cagey opening rounds.
“Both of the fencers, I really admire their fencing,” Kong added. “I always looked up to them, I really wanted to learn from them. It was the first time facing them at a tournament as individuals and very special I could do that at the Olympics.”
Cheung is in action for HK in the men’s foil on Sunday (Sunday night HK time), followed by Lin Po-heung in the women’s foil.