Hu v Feng: Latest chapter plays out at Asian Para Games
It was a clash of the Chinese titans in the men’s foil category B as two legends wrote the latest chapter of their rivalry at the Asian Para Games in Hangzhou, China, on Wednesday (25 October).
In a top quality replay of the final from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, Daoliang Hu and Yanke Feng went head-to-head.
With two Paralympic, two world and three Asian titles under his belt, Hu is one of the most successful Chinese fencers in history. However in 2016, Feng emerged as a main challenger to Hu’s dominance. He claimed both the Asian and Paralympic titles that year, adding the world title in 2019 and Paralympic gold at Tokyo 2020..
Continuing the pair’s story, their most recent tie for a gold saw Feng emerge the victor at the World Championships in Terni, Italy.
Against this background, there was barely anything to separate them in a tense final in Hangzhou. Feng managed to maintain a slender lead until Hu found a gap in his tactics that he could exploit, levelling the score and then taking the lead.
Feng dug deep into his reserves and reclaimed the lead, making the score 14-13. With just one point needed to win, Feng just lost the edge and Hu capitalised to bring himself back level once again.
In the end, it was Hu who held his nerve to land the winning touch.
Fanli Zhu and Benjun Qin completed an all-Chinese podium with bronze.
China’s Saichun Zhong cemented his position as the best men’s foil category A fencer in Asia, collecting his first Asian Para Games and Asian Championships title against compatriot and Paralympic champion Sun Gang.
At the 2019 World Championships Zhong left with silver behind Sun but did not go on to make his Paralympic debut in Tokyo in 2021, leaving Sun to take the gold.
Fast forward to the Terni 2023 Worlds and it was Zhong who landed in the final against Emanuele Lambertini. Despite losing to the Italian, Zhong still finished way ahead of Sun who that time could only manage a sixth-place finish.
On Wednesday it seemed as though Sun would retain his Asian title, establishing an 11-5 lead over his teammate.
But Zhong fought back. Peppering his opponent with hits which Sun was unable to defend, he bought the score level at 13-13 and went on to win 15-13.
“We both joined the team at the same time, so we are familiar with each other. Although I gained some advantages in the early stage of the match, I knew he would make some adjustments and make up for the early disadvantages,” Sun said. “As his teammate, I am very happy to see him winning. After all, we have known each other for many years and we are good friends.”
The rest of the podium was another all-Chinese affair as Yang Chen and Jianquan Tian claimed both bronzes.
Thailand’s Saysunee Jana broke the host’s dominance in the women’s epee category B.
Earlier this month Jana reclaimed the world title she last won in 2015, which was the cherry on top of a three-year unbeaten run at the World Cup level. The only time she had been bettered was at Tokyo 2020 where she still secured bronze – her fifth consecutive podium finish.
Jana was once again in top form in Wednesday’s final against Lanzhou Ao, grabbing the gold with a 15-9 score.
China’s Su Kang reached her second podium finish of Hangzhou 2023 with bronze. Anri Sakurai repeated her performance from Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2018 taking the other bronze for Japan’s first wheelchair fencing medal at Hangzhou 2023.
Yuandong Chen emerged the victor in the women’s epee category A out of three Chinese fencers.
Chen, who claimed bronze in epee at the World Championships, beat Hong Kong’s multiple Asian Championships medallist Yu Chui Yee for a place in the final.
There she faced teammate Haiyan Gu who herself had overcome world champion Xufeng Zou in a replay of the final from Terni 2023.
Chen took control of the match from Gu early on, maintaining at least a two-point buffer throughout. The final score was 15-12.
Zou and Yee occupied third spot on the podium.
The win adds to a stellar debut season for Chen who appears to be improving each time she takes to the piste.
Wheelchair fencing at the Asian Para Games continues until Friday (28 October) and features individual competition in the men’s and women’s foil, epee and sabre category A and B and team events in all three weapons.
The competition acts as the 2023 Asian Championships and offers crucial qualification points for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.
On Thursday (25 October), team events return with titles up for grabs in the men’s foil and women’s epee.