Ranked fourth in qualifiers, the quartet can qualify for Tokyo Olympic if they retain that position in the World Cup series in Cairo this weekend. Hong Kong has never sent a fencing team to the Olympics since its debut in Helsinki in 1952.
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A historic Olympic appearance is tantalizingly close for Hong Kong’s fencing team as they enter this weekend’s Cairo leg of the World Cup series the last obstacle to Tokyo Olympic qualification. Hong Kong has never been represented by a fencing team at the Olympics since the sport’s debut in Helsinki in 1952, and now the fourth-ranked team in the qualifiers need only to reach the top four in the World Cup series in Africa to breakthrough.
In fact, if the quartet of Cheung Ka-long, Ryan Choi Chun-yin, Cheung Siu-Lun and possibly Lawrence Ng Lok-wang can finish ahead of South Korea and Russia, ranked just behind Hong Kong, the mission will still be accomplished. To avoid coronavirus complications, the team left Hong Kong after the Lunar New Year for a training camp in France under their French coach Greg Koenig and will fly directly to California after Cairo for the Grand Prix in Anaheim in mid-March.
“This is a big mental test as we are now so closely approaching the end of the year-long qualifiers, supposed Zheng Zhaokang, head fencing coach at the Hong Kong Sports Institute. We don’t need some exceptionally good performances in Cairo. You never know what will happen. They may be too tense as any mistake may cost them dearly because this is the last team qualifying event and there is no next time.”
“But they have been in Europe for a long time, training with some of the world’s best fencers from the French national team. Mentally and physically they are already. We just need a finishing touch to complete the job.”
Hong Kong has been consistent since qualification began in the St Petersburg leg of the World Cup series last April, capturing a silver medal in the Russian leg followed by a fifth place at the world championships in Budapest. They also finished fourth in the last World Cup round in Paris, putting them in the driver’s seat for qualification as they now only rank behind the top three of the world – the US, France, and Italy.
The top four after the Cairo round will qualify for Tokyo, along with the next four top teams from four continents. If the existing positions remain unchanged, Hong Kong (4th), South Korea (5th) and Russia (6th) can all qualify. But the three teams are separated by a very small number of points Hong Kong has 252 points, South Korea are two points behind that, while Russia has 244. Japan is further down at 7th with 215.
If Russia takes fourth place while South Korea finishes ahead of Hong Kong, the Koreans will qualify as the best team from Asia and there will be no place for Hong Kong. A team qualifying for Tokyo will automatically get three quotas in the individual event. If Hong Kong fails to qualify in the team event, they can send only one fencer to Tokyo Olympic in the individual. The individual qualification will be completed after the Anaheim Grand Prix. Ryan Choi is leading Cheung Ka-long by 24 points in the individual standings.