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How Hong Kong became a fencing powerhouse and cheered up a city

HONG KONG: Hong Kong is one of the smaller Asian Games teams by population, but when it comes to fencing the city is a regional heavyweight with ambitious medal hopes.

Edgar Cheung won gold at the COVID-delayed Tokyo Games two years ago - Hong Kong's first Olympic fencing title and first Olympic gold in any sport in a quarter of a century.

It turned Cheung into a celebrity overnight and prompted parents across the Chinese territory of 7.5 million people to rush and sign their children up for fencing classes.

Cheung's historic win in the foil competition was a much-needed dose of good news for a city mired in social unrest and pandemic gloom at the time.

With more funding and public attention as a result, Cheung and his teammates now hope to stamp their mark on the Asian Games in Hangzhou when they open on Saturday.

Despite a strong record at recent editions, including eight medals in the sport in 2018, Hong Kong is yet to win fencing gold at the Asian Games.

"No matter for individual or team events, I hope we can (win gold at last)," the softly spoken Cheung, 26, said.

The city will have 24 fencers, 12 women and 12 men, at the Games.

Another gold-medal contender is 29-year-old Vivian Kong, who is ranked number two in the world in women's epee.

There is also Ryan Choi, who along with Cheung was part of the Hong Kong team that won bronze in the men's team foil at the world championships in July.

Cheung said the Hong Kong team have "improved greatly" since the 2018 Games in Jakarta.

The left-hander, who has recovered from a recent wrist injury, told AFP he wanted to "prove to our competitors they need to beware of us".

Fencing in the city stretches back decades, to when Hong Kong was a British colony, with its amateur fencing