Hong Kong fencers prepare for Paris World Cup with questions hanging over form of Olympic gold medallist Cheung Ka-long
- Cheung has dropped to fifth in the world after a poor start to the season, but is defending champion in France
- Hong Kong has a large contingent in the French capital this week, with 11 men and 6 women set to compete
With less than three months until the start of qualifying for the 2024 Olympics, Hong Kong’s gold medal-winning fencer Cheung Ka-long will put his Paris World Cup title on the line on Friday, with questions surrounding his form.
The former world No 2 has dropped three places in the rankings after a slow start to a season where he has lost in the first round in Bonn and in the last 16 in Tokyo.
Cheung leads a large contingent from the city, with 11 men and six women in France to compete in the foil at the Stade Pierre-de-Coubertin.
And despite the 25-year-old’s less than impressive displays over the past few weeks, head coach Zheng Zhaokang said he was not worried.
“We have a few more ranking tournaments, so what we’re doing now is ensuring that all of our fencers are in peak condition by April [when qualifying begins],” Zheng said.
Cheung made men’s foil history a year ago when he won individual gold in Paris, beating Edoardo Luperi of Italy 15-12 in the final. Luperi is in the Italian squad again this week.
The three-day foil individual events are set to begin on Thursday, with Cheung and Ryan Choi Chun-yin, the world No 9, handed direct entry into the last-64 main draw on Friday.
“We had six fencers make the main draw in the first world cup of the season [in Bonn], which is a very encouraging result,” Zheng said. “It is normal for a world No 1 to be defeated in the first round, so Ka-long’s case is very normal.”
Nicholas Choi, Lawrence Ng Lok-wang, Leung Chin-yu, and Cheung Ngo-chu qualified for the main draw in Bonn, as did last-64 direct entries Cheung and Choi, who are all on the 255-entry list in Paris.
There are three more ranking tournaments before the one-year Olympic qualifying cycle begins on April 3, with the Turin Grand Prix and Cairo World Cup in February, and the Busan Grand Prix in March, all providing an opportunity for Hong Kong’s athletes to improve their world places.
The Hong Kong team has been in Paris for several weeks training with the French national team and will remain there until the end of February, before heading home to prepare for the event in Busan.
Valerie Cheng Hiu-wai, Daphne Chan Nok-sze, Sophia Wu, and Kuan Yu-ching, the city’s top four women foilists, will all compete in the group matches on Thursday for spots in the main draw.