Fencer Cheung Siu-lun battled injury and won

Fencer Cheung Siu-lun battled injury and won

Cheung Siu-lun has tasted both success and injury, but the Hong Kong fencer never gave up hope, and worked hard to make sure he could return to the medal podium

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Cheung Siu-lun enjoys being a mentor to young fencers.
Photo: Blue Cross

An athlete's biggest enemy is injury. And Hong Kong fencing star Cheung Siu-lun knows all about it. In 2012, he suffered a serious injury that left him in so much pain that he couldn't even move. 

The 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games silver medallist had two choices - take care of his injuries, or retire. Cheung chose the first option, a tough decision that required great strength as he battled to overcome intense physical and psychological pain. 

Cheung, 30, is an expert in foil, one of the categories in fencing. It uses a lighter sword, called a foil, which has a more flexible blade. You have to use the tip of the foil to score points by making contact with your opponent's arms, legs or head.

In 2010, Cheung became the first athlete from Hong Kong to win silver in individual foil at the Guangzhou Asian Games. He also won a bronze in the foil team competition. His successes showed the world he was a formidable fencer.

But the nightmare started in February 2012, when he suffered a lower back injury during a competition. A herniated disc was putting pressure on his spinal nerves and causing intense pain. He wasn't able to walk, let alone fence. 

Cheung's doctor suggested surgery, but he was afraid it could end his fencing career. Instead he tried electrotherapy, massage, and acupuncture, but he didn't know if he would ever fully recover. 

For the full-time professional fencer, it seemed like ages before he could return to competition. He became depressed, and needed medication. 

But after a long layoff, Cheung made a brilliant comeback, winning a bronze in individual foil at the 2013 Asian Fencing Championships in Shanghai. Then, two months later, he became the first athlete from Hong Kong to reach the quarter-finals of the 2013 World Fencing Championships in Budapest, Hungary. 

However, the most exciting moment came that autumn, when Hong Kong won gold in the team foil at the 2013 East Asian Games in Tianjin.

These tough competitions proved very educational for Cheung. 

"After many experiences in different competitions against the world's top fencers, I've learned to control unexpected and tough situations," he says. "At crucial moments, I take a time-out to calm down or talk with my coaches or team members. Sports psychologists at the Hong Kong Sports Institute gave us some psychological tactics, too."

He has his own preparation tactics, too. "Activities like eating, drinking coffee, or chilling out help me to relax and forget about the pressure."

At competitions, Cheung and his teammates cheer each other on. He has a very good relationship with the younger team members he captains, such as Cheung Ka-long, Yeung Chi-ka and Nicholas Edward Choi, who won the bronze in team foil at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. 

"I will continue as a professional fencer to ensure a smooth transition to the younger generation," he says. "It means a lot to be their captain or 'elder brother' because I'm very willing to share my experience with them and help them grow up."

Cheung is now preparing for next month's Hong Kong Open Fencing Competition, but he's also set his sights on the biggest tournament of them all: the Rio Olympics in 2016.

For any aspiring fencers out there, Cheung suggests they take the sport seriously. 

"You cannot take catch-up classes to acquire all fencing skills. For a long-term fencer, it's more than just a game. You have to give it great effort and time," says Cheung. 

"You also need to have good time management skills to make sure you are able to balance your studies and sports. And I would recommend that you take part in more international tournaments, as battling against opponents in these events helps you learn enormously, especially about your skills and mental toughness."


Cheung Siu-lun is eyeing the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Photo: Blue Cross

Bench notes:

Who is your favourite athlete?
Tennis player Roger Federer, for his ability to be calm, resilient and determined. It’s amazing that he’s now 34 but he still manages to take part in intense competitions like Grand Slam tournaments.

What music do you listen to when you train?
I love R&B and hip hop music. The upbeat rhythm energises me.

What’s the one food you’ll never give up?
Burgers.

If you could have any superpower for 24 hours, what would you choose and how would you use your power?
Endless time-travel, so I could go anywhere, anytime, learn about different cultures and meet amazing people.

What hobbies do you have other than fencing?
I like cooking. That’s why I opened a hot-pot restaurant in Shau Kei Wan.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Fighting back to the top

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