Hong Kong finish Asian Championships campaign with bronze, coach admits team was ‘not up to standard’
- With reigning Olympic and newly crowned Asian champion Cheung Ka-long in squad, Hong Kong lose 45-42 to South Korea in men’s team foil semi-finals
- Head coach Zheng says some players were not up to required standard while Cheung suffers fever the day before
Hong Kong could not repeat their individual foil success after the men’s team crashed out of the semi-finals in the last day of the Asian Championships in Seoul on Wednesday.
Headed by newly crowned individual champion and world No 1 Cheung Ka-long, the team, which also featured Ryan Choi Chun-yin, Lawrence Ng Lok-wang and Yeung Chi-ka, managed a joint third place after a heartbreaking 45-42 loss to the hosts.
No play-off was required for the bronze medal, although Hong Kong beat losing semi-finalists Taiwan 45-30 to secure additional world ranking points.
“Some of the members are not up to the standard against the Koreans and that’s the main reason we lost,” head coach Zheng Kangzhao told the Post from Seoul. “In a team event we need all fencers to perform, otherwise it would become difficult. We are working on the problem.”
Ranked seventh in the world, Hong Kong started as favourites against the Koreans who are No 11 in the standings. Hong Kong beat Australia 45-35 in the opening quarter-finals, while South Korea thrashed Singapore 45-24 before the two regional powers squared off against each other.
Choi, who snatched an individual bronze on Sunday, and Cheung gave Hong Kong a perfect start as the duo took a 10-6 lead after the first two bouts. Yeung and Ng were unable to replicate their success.
The Koreans came back from behind in the third and led 15-12, extending their advantage to 30-23 after the sixth round out of a total nine. Choi made a wonderful workout in the eighth round when he scored 13-7 over Ha Tae-gyu, closing the gap to a two-point deficit 38-40 before passing it to Cheung, the Tokyo Olympic champion.
But unfortunately Cheung could not continue the feat against Heo Jun, the 2018 World Championships bronze medallist, as he managed four hits in the last bout against Heo’s five.
“Cheung suffered a fever and diarrhoea the previous day and needed to take medicine before the event and that’s why he struggled a bit today,” the coach said.
South Korea went on to lose the crown to fourth-ranked Japan after they were beaten 45-33 in the final.
In the women’s team sabre, Hong Kong finished seventh through Au Sin-ying, Chu Wing-kiu and Lau Wing-yi.
“We have a comparatively young squad with two youngsters, Chu and Lau being promoted to senior squad for a short period of time,” Zheng said. “They did give their best which is important as we can work with their technical aspects for improvement.”
The team will return to Hong Kong for a seven-day quarantine before a brief training stint at the Sports Institute in Fo Tan as they prepare for the last and biggest event of the season at the World Championships in Cairo in July.
Both the foil and épée teams will spend another training camp in Spain ahead of the event before the season wraps up. The sabre team will travel to Budapest for their build-up for Cairo.
Hong Kong’s best result at the Worlds came from Vivian Kong Man-wai, who snatched a bronze in the women’s épée in 2019 when she completed the season as world No 1.