The head of the Hong Kong Sports Institute has called for unlimited government support for Hong Kong athletes in the hope that Edgar Cheung’s gold medal success at the Tokyo Olympics will prompt more people to take up sports full-time.

In the wake of Cheung’s fencing heroics on Monday, chairman Lam Tai-fai said: “Following the development of sports, I believe that more athletes will go full-time, with more full-time athletes and increasing youth-training work, and more resources should be added… there should be no ceiling.”

Edgar Cheung. Photo: Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China.

Lam – who referenced Hong Kong’s reputation for under-funding and under-valuing its sporting talent – told Commercial Radio on Tuesday that the current administration had provided more support for the city’s athletes compared to predecessors, even during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cheung became the first Hongkonger to win an Olympic gold medal since 1996, and the first to win a medal in the men’s foil individual event. The 24-year-old beat 2016 Rio Olympics gold medallist Daniele Garozzo of Italy by 15 points to 11.

Cheung said he believed his win “proves that Hong Kong is still capable” while speaking to the city’s first Olympic gold medallist windsurfer Lee Lai-Shan on Hong Kong Open TV. Lee won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

“Don’t think that [Hong Kong] is just a small city, and it would be difficult to compete with countries, if we try our best and work card, [we] can do it too, don’t give up,” said Cheung.

City-wide celebration

Following Cheung’s win, many of Hong Kong’s businesses announced gifts for athletes from the city competing at the Tokyo games.

Hongkongers watch Edgar Cheung strike gold at a shopping mall. Photo: StudioIncendo.

Kowloon Motor Bus and the city’s MTR announced that all Hong Kong Olympians will get free rides for a year, while gold medal winner Cheung would get free MTR rides for life.

Cheung will also receive HK$5 million from the Henderson Land Commendation Scheme for Elite Athletes, and HK$2.5 million from the Lam Tai Fai Charitable Foundation.

Hong Kong political figures also congratulated Cheung on his victory. Chief Secretary John Lee said that he was “very excited witnessing the historic moment.”

“I am full of confidence for Hong Kong athletes, let’s all cheer for Hong Kong athletes to continue fighting in the upcoming competitions for good results!” said Lee in a Facebook post on Monday.

Chief Secretary John Lee watching Edgar Cheung’s interview after Cheung won a gold medal at the Toyko Olympics on July 26, 2021. Photo: Chief Secretary’s Office, via Facebook.

Former financial secretary John Tsang, a fencing enthusiast, thanked Cheung in a Facebook post on Monday evening.

“Fencing turned from a less popular event to well-known because of the hard work of several generations of coaches, support from parents, and the perseverance and sweat of the fencers,” said Tsang.

“Edgar Cheung won an Olympics gold medal for Hong Kong, behind that was a miracle created by a lot of Hong Kong people, but most importantly was of course that Edgar could remain calm in the face of challenges… Edgar, thank you, the whole of Hong Kong is proud of you!”

Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.