Tue, 03 Aug 2021

NANJING, June 16 (Xinhua) -- With China's 2021 National Fencing Championships in Nanjing ending on Tuesday night, the Chinese fencing team are now preparing for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

Nine fencers on the 13-person team made their debut at Rio 2016, while only two of the 15 fencers who qualified for Tokyo 2020 have previous Olympic experience.

"We didn't do as well in Rio as in London [in 2012]," Wang Haibin, president of the Chinese Fencing Association, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview. "We started forming the team in 2017 as a new Olympic cycle began. We are now in progress, with the growth of youngsters and the return of veterans like Xu Anqi."

"Only Xu and Sun Yiwen have previous Olympic experience," added the two-time Olympic team foil silver medalist.

The Chinese fencing team made history at the 2012 London Olympics by bagging two golds and one bronze, but only finished with one silver and one bronze at the Rio Games.

Regarding medals at the Tokyo Olympics, the Chinese fencing team's goal is to "do better than Rio."

"We prepared for each event accordingly with different focuses," Wang said. "The Olympics is full of surprises, so we asked the fencers to enjoy and seize every opportunity to win."

For Huang Mengkai, the only male Chinese fencer to qualify for the foil event at the Tokyo Olympics, the former foil fencer expected him to "try to win the first match and anything could happen from there."

There will be 12 gold medals up for grabs in Tokyo. The Chinese team achieved its goal of competing in all three weapons - namely foil, sabre and epee - and will compete in the women's epee, women's sabre and men's epee in team events.

Based on the qualification results, Wang believes that China is still a powerful team on the world stage.

"Among the 42 teams who qualified for Tokyo, only Russia, Italy and the United States managed to participate in all 12 events," Wang noted. "China is ranked sixth in terms of the number of participating fencers."

"We are not able to compete with the powerhouses in all events yet, but we will focus on the ones we are best at."

Currently ranked world No. 1, China's women's epee team has the biggest chance to secure a gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

"The men's epee is ranked sixth in the world and got into the Olympics by beating some strong teams in qualification," Wang said. "World No. 4 Shao Yaqi has a chance in the women's individual sabre."

Due to COVID-19, preparation work for Tokyo Olympics has been more difficult than ever for both China and other teams.

"We thought other teams wouldn't be able to train systematically and properly like we did," said Wang. "But we were proven wrong at the Olympic qualification tournaments in Russia and Hungary."

"Fencing is a sport that you can only improve by competing with other fencers. As far as I'm aware, despite some official competitions being canceled, fencing clubs in Europe and North America still play against each other very often. So they are able to compete with fencers of different countries and regions and with different styles."

"It also takes longer for our fencers to get into it during matches," Wang added. "It might be the personality that European and American fencers are already hyped at the beginning of the match."

"But the Olympics is a matter of intensity, there's no time for you to feel it first."

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