Natalie Chan is a real crowd puller as she struts her stuff at Discovery Park shopping centre
- The 21-year-old shines in front of curious shoppers in Tsuen Wan
- The Hong Kong born fencer is hoping to follow in her dad’s footsteps and qualify for the Olympics
Discovery Park shopping centre in Tsuen Wan isn’t quite the place you would expect an up-and-coming young fencer to be showing her potential but in Natalie Chan Wai-ling’s case it was the perfect venue to highlight her skills on Sunday.
In front of hundreds of curious spectators, the 21-year-old youngster impressed shoppers and tourists alike as she took bronze in the women’s épée competition at the Blue Cross Hong Kong Open, which was held at the spacious shopping centre for the first time to generate more interest in the sport.
Chan is trying to follow in her father’s footsteps by representing Hong Kong at the Tokyo Olympic Games and she showed her potential with a good showing in her first major competition.
She lost to the much more experienced Vivian Kong Man-wai, the world number seven, 15-9 in the semi-finals. Kong went on to win the title.
Chan was born in Hong Kong before moving to New Zealand at the age of two with her father, Chan Kai-sang, who represented Hong Kong in a series of international competitions, including the 1988 Seoul Olympics, also in épée, before his retirement.
“This will be the ultimate target [qualifying for the Olympic Games]. My father went to the Olympic Games and it will be a great honour if I can emulate his achievements,” said Chan, who represented New Zealand at junior level before joining a Christian missionary programme in Canada in the past two years. “I know Hong Kong has many good fencers in women’s épée but this has little to do with my decision. I want to continue my fencing career in Hong Kong ... my birthplace, which is also an ideal hub for going training anywhere in the world.”
Head coach Zheng Zhaokang said the young fencer would be eligible to represent Hong Kong in Tokyo as she had cleared all the requirements for switching membership from New Zealand to Hong Kong. She also holds a Hong Kong passport, which boosts her case.
Kong, who beat Xiang Yixuan, of China, 11-9 in the final, welcomed the newest member of the Hong Kong team. “Her style is different from us and her arrival would help as we aim to qualify for the team competition as well for the Tokyo Olympics,” said the champion.
The women’s épée team are ranked ninth in the world, behind South Korea (third) and China (fifth), with the Olympic qualification kicking off in April, 2019. The top four teams will qualify directly for Tokyo while the next top Asian team can also earn their place.
“We have a strong team now and our target is to finish the top four in qualification,” said Kong, who also captured silver in the World Cup series in Estonia last month.
In men’s foil, Edgar Cheung Ka-long defeated up-coming Lawrence Ng Lok-wang 15-11.