In fighting form

Kevin Kung

The territory's top junior fencer is ready to shine at the Youth Olympics and scale greater heights over the next few years

Kevin Kung |

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Jackson with his father, Wang Ruiji
When other teenagers are hanging out after school, or catching up with the latest news on Facebook, Jackson Wang, 16, is fighting with his father.

Jackson will represent Hong Kong at the first Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Singapore in August. His father Wang Ruiji, a famous mainland fencer, takes the credit for introducing Jackson to the sport. Wang - Hong Kong's fencing coach - won gold in the sabre event at the 1978 Asian Games in Bangkok. It was China's first-ever fencing gold.

Sport runs in the family. Jackson's mum, Sophia Chow, was a world champion mainland gymnast in the 1980s.

'My father always says if I lose, it's his fault, and if I win, it is my own glory. That's very supportive and I'm glad he is not a demanding coach. He lets me follow my own pace in competitions,' says Jackson.

'But, he also says that if I can beat an opponent 15-0, I shouldn't let the score be 15-1. He cares about my attitude towards every point in a competition, but not the results.'

The American International School student booked his place in Singapore at the 2010 World Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships in Azerbaijan - the qualifying tournament for the Youth Olympics.

'It was make or break,' he says of the competition, where he narrowly missed getting into the quarter-finals.

Jackson has been travelling around the world this year. In January, he went to Copenhagen, Denmark for the Senior World Satellite Cup, where he finished fifth. He came third in the Asian Junior & Cadet Championships held in the Philippines in March.

Qualifying for the Youth Olympic Games was not easy because there were only places for two fencers in each weapons category from Asia.

'In my event, I'm the top fencer in Asia,' Jackson says.

Currently he is ranked number one in cadet and junior sabre in Hong Kong, and in youth sabre in Asia. He is ranked number 11 in world junior sabre. 'If I can do well [in Singapore], I will also be eligible to represent Asia in the team event at the YOG,' he says.

Before making it to the Youth Olympics, Jackson spent most of his time honing his basic skills. He thought the training was very dull but the hard work proved to be worthwhile.

'My father insisted I learn all the basics and build a strong foundation,' Jackson says. 'Now I know my dad is a coach with great vision. Because of my solid basic skills, I was able to withstand enormous pressure during the qualifying matches.'

Wang was only a spectator at the World Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships where his son sealed his YOG qualification. 'Every athlete wants to win matches and so does my son. I am confident about his ability to show his best form and adjust his strategy during a match. I always let him make the decisions and evaluate them after a match,' says Wang.

'I have two sons and I didn't force them to do my sport when they were kids. Jackson's elder brother lacks the skills so I didn't introduce him to the sport. Jackson is talented and addicted to fencing. So I let him play.'

Wang is happy that Jackson is willing to discuss problems with his parents.

'He is mature and knows the importance of communication with his parents. He is unique [when compared with some teenagers] and it has made him a successful junior fencer,' he says.

Jackson describes how his father reacted after he secured his place in the Youth Olympics.

'He said I was brilliant and he was very proud of me. He gave me a hug and I think that was a very touching moment.'

Jackson's long-term target is qualifying for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. 'YOG has nothing to do with the Summer Olympics, but it will boost my morale and help me gain exposure to international tournaments,' he says. 'Every athlete wants to represent their country or region in the Olympics. If the YOG is the first step of my journey, I wish I can finish mine on the podium of the [Summer] Olympics.'

It is much harder to qualify for the Olympics - fencers have to be in the top 16 in the world rankings and that means they have to do very well in competitions in the year before the Games. 'In case I cannot make it to the 2012 Olympics [in London], I will work hard to represent Hong Kong in 2016,' Jackson says.

Kevin is a Young Post intern

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