World No 1 Cheung Ka-long’s success inspiring Hong Kong’s teen fencing prodigies
- Foilist Daphne Chan Nok-sze, 17, and epeeist Chen Hailin, 15, hope to follow in Tokyo Olympic champion’s footsteps
- ‘Ka-long shows us if we work hard enough, we can achieve something,’ says Chen, who has been dubbed the ‘next Vivian Kong’
Tokyo Olympic champion foilist Cheung Ka-long’s historic success over the last nine months has provided massive inspiration for two of Hong Kong’s most promising teen fencers.
Cheung is back in singles action this weekend for the first time as world No 1 at the Plovdiv World Cup, and foilist Daphne Chan Nok-sze and epeeist Chen Hailin will be watching as they continue to plot their own paths to the top.
“He is definitely my role model – it’s amazing that he gained a gold medal in the Olympics and is now world No 1, it is incredibly inspirational,” said 17-year-old Chan, a St Paul’s Co-Educational College fifth form student who won four medals at her maiden Asian Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships in February.
“I want to follow in his footsteps because he shows me that if I work a lot harder, I could be able to compete in the Olympics in the future.”
Chan has missed nearly a year of training and competitions because of the pandemic, with the Hong Kong Sports Institute opting for a closed-camp approach with only elite, full-time athletes being catered to.
“What I did learn in the last two years is to embrace the chance, and not let myself regret it,” said Chan, who started fencing at the age of five, and won gold in the junior and cadet team events, and bronze in two individuals events, in Tashkent, Uzbekistan two months ago.
“So, throughout the previous two months at the junior Worlds and Asian Championships, I’ve been fighting hard and do not want to have any regrets.”
The 15-year-old Chen Hailin, meanwhile, has been dubbed the “next Vivian Kong” after clinching a cadet individual bronze medal at the Dubai World Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships this month, in addition to three medals at the junior Asian Championships.
“Ka-long shows us if we work hard enough, we can achieve something,” Chen said of Cheung’s achievements.
ESF Sha Tin College Year 11 student Chen lost 15-14 in a nail-biter of a semi-final at the junior Worlds against top-seed and eventual champion Aleyna Erturk of Turkey, and had to settle for bronze.
As well as emulating his achievements, the 1.85-metre tall fencer hopes to eventually grow as tall as the 1.93-metre Cheung.
“Actually, I am fairly content with my height, but if I can reach Ka-long’s height, that would be nice,” Chen said, adding that she considers herself fortunate to have Vivian Kong Man-wai, the former world No 1 who is currently ranked sixth, as a role model.
Both fencers, who have at least three more years to compete in the junior Worlds and Asian Championships, are now focusing on academics before the President’s Cup in Hong Kong in early June.
Cheung is among eight Hong Kong foilists who will compete in Plovdiv this weekend, while the women’s epeeist contingent led by Kong will be in action at the Le Caire Grand Prix in Egypt.