Vivian Kong Man-wai
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Vivian Kong gives the thumbs up after ACL knee surgery. Photo: Instagram

Tokyo Olympics setback for Hong Kong star fencer Vivian Kong after ACL knee surgery

  • The world No 1 female epeeist is expected to be on the sidelines for about six months as her Tokyo Games plans are thrown into disarray
  • The 25-year-old world championships bronze medallist hurt herself during the recent world championships in Budapest and required immediate surgery
  • She remains confident she will come back from her latest setback and take her place in Tokyo next year

Just days after becoming the first Hong Kong fencer to medal at the world championships, Vivian Kong Man-wai was dealt another cruel blow after she revealed on social media that she had undergone surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), throwing her Tokyo Games preparations in disarray.

The 25-year-old left-handed epeeist made Hong Kong history by winning bronze at the world championships in Hungary recently, but the world No 1 said she had injured herself in Budapest and she required surgery to “fix it”.
Vivian Kong (right) is the first Hong Kong fencer to medal at the world championships. Photo: FIE/Facebook

It’s the second time inside two years the talented fencer has had surgery on her knees. Last year, she needed almost a year on the sidelines coming back from a torn ACL on her left knee suffered in 2017. She came back and won two medals at the Asian Games in Jakarta last summer before enjoying a brilliant 2019 that saw her win gold medals in two World Cup events, which helped her ascend to the No 1 ranking for the first time.

She then made history by becoming the first Hong Kong fencer to win bronze at the world championships in the individual épée event on July 18, a monumental achievement that also saw her regain her world No 1 ranking.

However, her world has been turned upside down once again. Her latest setback could seriously affect her hopes of winning a medal in Tokyo next year. She is one of only three athletes who have a genuine chance of finishing on the podium at the Games, joining double world champion cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze and swimmer Siobhan Haughey.

Vivian Kong has her back against the wall again. Photo: FIE/Facebook

Kong injured her right knee during the last eight of the individual épée in Budapest last week, but felt well enough to continue competing, losing to a Brazilian fencer in the semi-finals. As there is no play-off for the bronze medal, she was automatically awarded a third-place medal.

Hong Kong’s most celebrated fencer took the devastating news in her stride – even poking fun at her predicament.

“Oops I did it again … tore my other acl but it’s fixed now! Thank u for all the love,” she posted on Instagram while suggesting her injury wouldn’t “greatly” affect her Tokyo hopes.

Vivian Kong could be out of action for six months. Photo: Bizzi Team

Kong revealed she had accidentally slipped during her quarter-final bout and wasn’t able to fully flex her right foot the following day. She said that affected her performance during her semi-final bout against Brazil’s Nathalie Mollenhausen, the eventual gold medallist. Kong pulled out of the épée team event to return to Hong Kong and have medical treatment.

“This injury reminds me of my last injury,” Kong said on Monday during a ceremony awarding honorary academicians. “This [latest] injury will make me stronger and I am confident that I will come back and compete in the Olympics,” she said as she walked on crutches while fighting back tears.

Head coach Zheng Zhaokang said Kong’s surgery had gone smoothly and expects her to make a full recovery in about six months.

“It depends on how quickly she recovers from this. She was able to recover from her last injury in about three or four months. I hope she can recover soon. The most important thing now is for Vivian to take a rest,” he said.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: I will come back, says Kong after injury blow