Asian Games: agony for Hong Kong fencers on a day of near-misses as gold somehow eludes quartet
Hong Kong had gold in sight, and had it snatched away at the death
Nicholas Choi walked away from the Asian Games fencing hall with a silver medal on Tuesday, after a day that promised so much for Hong Kong in the end delivered rather less than was expected.
Choi blew a two-point lead with just 30 seconds remaining of his final match against China’s Huang Mengkai and in the process handed the 20-year-old the biggest prize of his young career.
Huang was down receiving medical treatment with just a minute left of the duel and Choi two points to the good at 10-8, and it seemed that Hong Kong was about to strike gold for the first time in Jakarta. But in a disastrous final minute, Choi’s gold medal hopes collapsed.
“It’s a pity cause I was leading 10-8 and he caught up really well,” Choi said.
“I was actually a bit tired at the end. And my muscle – I don’t know if it’s cramp or something, but I couldn’t do what I wanted to, and then he did what he wanted to. It was a good few points for him at the end.”
Choi wasn’t the only Hong Kong fencer to lose out agonisingly on Tuesday.
The quartet of Choi, Cheung Ka-long, Vivian Kong Man-wai and Kaylin Hsieh Sin-yan fenced beautifully all day long in the men’s individual foil and the women’s individual epee, and it’s a disappointment that for their collective dominance, they couldn’t better their haul.
One thing is for certain, the Hong Kong teams will be much feared in the team events later in the Games.
For Choi, the silver medal represented a new high watermark in the 25-year-old’s career.
“My goal was a medal, and then I had to fence my teammate in the semi-final,” he said. “Our goal was actually to fence each other in the final, but still, I’m really happy because both of us got to win a medal for Hong Kong today,” he added.
His Hong Kong teammate, and current Asian number one, Cheung Ka-long fell to Choi in the semi-final after a close encounter that Cheung was perhaps expected to win, such had been his form throughout the day’s action.
“It’s still okay overall but in the last match there were some minor mistakes,” admitted Cheung. “I wasn’t handling it well in some points. But I’m very relaxed as this is my first Asian Games and I’ve come back with a medal and learned from a big tournament that even if I am in good form, I need to keep it up all the way to the end.”
In the women’s individual epee, Hong Kong hope Vivian Kong Man-wai was narrowly beaten 13-12 by eventual gold medal winner Kang Youngmi of South Korea.
“I didn’t do very well in the final stages,” Kong said. “I’m not satisfied with the result.
“It’s likely we will meet the Koreans again in the team event and we can’t allow them to take the opportunity like this time,” she added.
Kong also held a three-point lead in the final stages of the duel, but was unable to hold on as Kang piled on the late pressure.
Tied at the end of three rounds, the duel went to one-touch and she was beaten to the decisive point by the Korean veteran and world number six.
“I couldn’t stop her when she stormed back,” Kong said. “My execution wasn’t good when I was closing in. At 12-all, I didn’t come up with a plan to stop her.”
Mercurial 17-year-old Hsieh was eliminated at the quarter-final stage in cruel circumstances of her own. She was just a few seconds away from eliminating the decorated South Korean Choi Injeong and making the semi-final with a chance to improve on her Asian Championships bronze from earlier this year. But when a thrilling duel went down to extra-time, the youngster was a mite overexuberant and as she lunged, her experienced opponent slipped and countered to claim the win.