Fencer Ryan Choi earns Asian Games spot after his mother forced him to learn
As a child, he reluctantly went to his first class simply to make up the numbers and he has loved the sport ever since
Ryan Choi Chun-yin was in primary four when his mother forced him to attend a fencing lesson. Her friend was conducting the class and he was short of students, so Choi reluctantly trudged along to boost the numbers.
By the end of the class, Choi was sold. Fencing became his new passion and last week, he fulfilled one of his lifelong ambitions when he earned a coveted place in the Hong Kong men’s squad for August’s Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“I didn’t really want to go,” said Choi. “But my mother made me because it was a friend of hers and they wanted more students. But after the class, I loved it and wanted to continue. It’s been an amazing journey.”
The 20-year-old earned his place in Hong Kong’s Asian Games team by beating experienced Cheung Siu-lun 15-9 in the final of Presidents Cup on Sunday.
Both fencers were equal in ranking before the tournament and whoever won the clash would land the Games spot.
Choi joins Cheung Ka-long, Nicholas Choi and Yeung Chi-ka in the team event for the Jakarta fencing competition.
His pride, though, is in the way he won the competition – having had to overcome difficult matches from the last 16 onwards and also adapting his playing style to achieve victory.
In the last 16, he was down 8-6 and was at a loss about what to do. His coaches were unable to help because they had to be neutral among the Hong Kong Sports Institute athletes. So he had to think for himself.
“I was very nervous for the whole day,” said Choi. “Usually I’m good in attack but that day, for some reason, I had problems with my rhythm and every time I tried to attack I missed.
“This has happened to me a lot in the past and I would lose, so I made a decision that was pretty extreme for me. I decided to play defensive.
“It was a gamble. I would try to wait for my opponent to make a mistake and then I would attack. In the past I would be afraid but this time I wasn’t afraid, even when I was retreating. And it worked.”
Choi admitted he surprised himself by his change of psyche, which is something he never learned during sports psychology classes as an elite athlete.
“I’ve had sports psychology sessions but those mostly help you when it comes to preparing for events,” said Choi. “In the middle of a match, it is a different situation altogether.
“It was just a case of changing your mindset and it was difficult in the past but I was able to do it this time with success.
“What makes me feel good about my performance is that I was patient. I was not afraid to lose, even while retreating. I was basically telling my opponent, ‘come, I won’t lose to you’. My game was very unbalanced before but now I’m much better in defence.”
Choi adapting his fencing style was all in the name of making the Asian Games team, because he knows that Jakarta presents the best chance Hong Kong have ever had of winning a gold medal.
Cheung and Nicholas Choi are ranked 11 and 20 in the world respectively and Hong Kong have performed well against international teams, losing narrowly to South Korea and Italy.
“This is the best chance ever for Hong Kong to win a gold medal in the men’s team event, so it I’m very proud to be part of the squad,” said Choi.