Hong Kong Fencing School, where Olympic gold medallist Cheung Ka-long learned the sport, is facing deep financial problems after being closed for the third time because of the coronavirus. The school’s two campuses, in Kornhill and Mong Kok, have been shut since early January, when the government banned all sport in the city at the beginning of the fifth wave of the pandemic. And although owner Wong Tsan said it was “the most difficult period we have faced over the last two years,” the former Commonwealth foil champion remains upbeat about the future. “The business seemed to be getting back to normal after last summer,” he said. “The pandemic had been easing and more importantly with the effect brought by the achievements of our fencers in the Tokyo Olympic Games, everyone felt the hard times had gone. “But suddenly the virus attack returned severely in January with the Omicron variants, and it came just like a slap in the face. “During normal times, we can run 50 classes a week with six to 10 students in one class and some one-on-one individual classes, but of course this is not happening any more.” Hong Kong sport facing 2-week shutdown as officials tighten Covid-19 controls With 7,000 sq ft of space lying empty, Wong said the main issue he, and many business owners faced, was not knowing “when it [the lockdown] is going to stop”. Wong said while the school had been given a HK$100,000 subsidy from the government in the sixth round of the anti-epidemic fund, it was far from enough. “Maybe for some small scale fencing clubs, it can alleviate their financial burden arising from their closure but for us, the amount can only help pay mostly the management fee charged by the landlord, let alone the monthly rent which is several times the subsidy,” he said. “But the landlord has been very lenient as they have cut the rent under these difficult days and our staff members have also taken no paid leave during the closure to lower our expenses. We are very grateful to both of them.” Wong said he had already applied for bank loans to help as he had no more savings to put in, and was hoped the lockdown would be over soon. “As a former athlete, I always remain upbeat,” he said. “The pandemic will end one day though we don’t know when. During this period I have got to prepare the school well so that when we reopen it, we can have better facilities to train our fencers as we cannot do this kind of upgrade work during normal times when classes are always full.” Opened in 2002, the school was the first private fencing club to offer formal training to youngsters from the age of four. “I went to a study trip to England when I was working with the national sports association and found out there were so many fencing clubs there to help develop the sport in grass roots level and that was the first time I had the idea of setting up one in Hong Kong,” Wong said. Over the years, many potential fencers had received training at his school before they were recruited to the national youth squad and then the senior squad, such as Olympic gold medallist Cheung and his teammate in Tokyo, Ryan Choi Chun-yin. Two other former junior world champions, Karen Chang Ngai-hing and Hsieh Sin-yan, also learned the sport there.