Olympic king Cheung Ka-long leads Hong Kong fencers’ challenge at Asian Championships
- Men’s foil team aims to win first regional gold with Cheung, Ryan Choi, Lawrence Ng and Yeung Chi-ka in the four-member squad
- Women’s épée team is headed by Vivian Kong, and also aims to extend long medal-winning streak
Hong Kong’s high-flying fencers will look to once again prove themselves against their regional counterparts as they kick off their Asian Championships campaigns in Seoul on Friday.
Led by reigning Olympic champion and world No 1 Cheung Ka-long, Hong Kong will be the team to beat in the men’s foil, while a women’s épée team featuring former world No 1 Vivian Kong Man-wai will be another force to be reckoned with.
Both Cheung and Kong are former regional champions. Cheung captured the individual foil title in Wuxi, China in 2016, while Kong was the 2018 épée champion in Bangkok – where another Hong Kong foilist, Cheung Siu-lun, clinched the men’s foil title.
Hong Kong has never won a team gold at the regional championships. But the men’s foil team, which also features Ryan Choi Chun-yin, Lawrence Ng Lok-wang and Yeung Chi-ka, will be the favourites in the South Korean capital.
“Every competition we go to, we target a gold medal,” foil coach Gregory Koenig said before the team’s departure.
“Hong Kong will be the team to beat in Seoul because of our recent performances, and we will also be under great pressure. But how to handle that pressure in such an environment is what we have to face.”
Having lifted the Olympic title last summer, Cheung also reached the top of the world rankings in April by winning the World Cup series in Paris.
Choi, meanwhile, won a silver medal in the Grand Prix series in Incheon this month. The two top fencers, with the help of Yeung and Cheung Siu-lun, claimed a team silver at the most recent regional championships in Chiba, China in 2019. This weekend marks the return of the event after a two-year absence because of the pandemic.
Japan, headed by world No 4 and Tokyo Olympic semi-finalist Takahiro Shikine, will be Hong Kong’s biggest rivals.
Ng will be making his event debut. The youngest member of Hong Kong’s squad at 22, he has already represented the city at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, helping the team finish in a creditable seventh place.
But since then, the youngster has faced something of a crisis in confidence, with his results suffering.
“My performance so far this season is nothing you want to boast about,” Ng said. “I think this is something to do with the psychological side, but not my skills or ability.
“I need another opportunity so that I can pick up my confidence again. The Asian Championships would set the stage for this.”
There is also a newcomer in the women’s épée team, with 24-year-old Natalia Chan Wai-ling joining Kong, Coco Lin Yik-hei and Moonie Chu Ka-mong.
Chan was preferred to reigning NCAA champion Kaylin Hsieh Sin-yan because of a better home ranking, with Hsieh studying at university in the United States.
Born in Hong Kong but raised in New Zealand before moving back to the city in 2018, Chan has started gaining international exposure since the beginning of the season.
“The épée team has been winning medals in every Asian Championships since Hong Kong’s participation in the third championships in 1993, and I don’t want to see this long winning streak broken because I joined for the first time,” she said. “With more opportunities this season, I am getting better and better and want to prove it in Seoul.”
Hong Kong will face two world powers in South Korea and China at the event. The Koreans came second at the Tokyo Olympics, while China was fourth, and Hong Kong seventh.
Chinese epeeist Sun Yiwen also lifted individual gold in Tokyo.
Hong Kong have sent teams to all six events in Seoul, in the men’s and women’s foil, épée and sabre.