Edgar Cheung Ka-long entered the arena for the World Cup in St Petersburg, Russia feeling like a small fish in a big pond, but came away confident he was no longer a minnow. He can now hold his own against the big boys.
The 19-year-old Hong Kong fencing sensation enhanced his growing reputation as a world-class fencer after taking a bronze medal – Hong Kong’s first-ever medal in the World Cup – in the men’s individual foil event, considered the biggest competition since last year’s Rio Olympic Games.
Cheung’s surprise semi-final performance comes a month after he became world junior champion in individual foil at the junior and cadet world fencing championships held in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
“I’m amazed, really happy that things have turned out the way it has,” said Cheung, who reached the last 16 of last year’s Rio Games and is now ranked world No 7. “To be honest, I didn’t feel very big when I entered the piste [arena] in St Petersburg because this competition was competed by all the top fencers from Europe. They were all ahead of me [skill wise] and I wasn’t so sure how I would perform,” he said.
“I felt a bit confident about myself after winning the world juniors but St Petersburg was so much higher in terms of level and I still wasn’t sure,” added Cheung, who shared third place with Russia’s Timur Safin.
Cheung, the reigning Asian champion, gave Rio Olympic gold medallist Daniele Garozzo a run for his money before losing 12-10 in controversial fashion after the Italian took a five-minute injury break to seek treatment for his strained left thigh.
“I was down 6-2 but I came back to 7-7 before Garozzo took a surprise break,” said Cheung. “I was really on a hot streak and then he stopped suddenly to get treatment and this affected my performance.
“After the break, I led 9-7 but he eventually won 12-10. I was on track to defeat him but he needed to take a break. I just had to sit and wait for him and while I was sitting in my chair I was thinking what strategies I should take.”
Despite Garozzo’s unsporting gesture, Cheung was still pleased he had won his first senior World Cup medal. Garozzo went on to win gold, beating another Italian, the former two-time Olympic foil team gold medallist, Andrea Cassara, who visited Hong Kong two years ago to conduct coaching clinics.
“Many of the top fencers in St Petersburg were Rio Olympic medallists so that proved that the world’s best took part in it,” said Cheung.
“I was really delighted to have won a medal in Russia. Winning the world junior gave me some confidence but winning bronze in Russia has really boosted my confidence even more.”