Sport helps heal our wounded souls

Editorial | Mary Ma 28 Jul 2021

The Olympic gold medal won by fencer Edgar Cheung Ka-long has given Hongkongers a huge - and timely - reason to celebrate.

The last time Hong Kong celebrated in similar style was in 1996, just one year before the handover.

Back then, windsurfing queen Lee Lai-shan finished first in Atlanta to win Hong Kong's first-ever Olympic gold.

Cheung's victory in the men's individual foil at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday not only ended the 25-year wait for another Olympic gold, but may also help heal a society that has been seriously torn apart over almost everything.

Cheung's achievement was never going to be easy - as an old saying goes, it takes years to build.

As Cheung battled his way to the pinnacle of his fencing career in his most stunning performance, it was the outcome of many years of tough training.

Only Cheung knows the many ups and downs he has been through. At the last Olympic games in Rio, he suffered setbacks. But he learned from his mistakes and managed not to let himself be overwhelmed by emotions, which helped paved the way to his success in Tokyo.

It was hardly surprising that, having won the city's second Olympic gold in history, the fencer was rewarded with an instant windfall of money and gifts.

Hong Kong Sports Institute chairman Lam Tai-fai exclaimed that he was so excited by the remarkable breakthrough that he could not sleep that night.

The stunning win has special meaning for Lam because Cheung had studied at his secondary school.

As said, Hong Kong is badly divided over almost everything imaginable. It's so true to say that, as Lam noted in a media interview, sport has the potential to unite a society - something that local political figures have failed to achieve.

This may sound ironic but it is so true.

As with windsurfer Lee back in 1996, Cheung's Tokyo triumph immediately created a wave of excitement across Hong Kong.

People have found a new reason to engage in everyday conversation, instead of having to cope with the daily Covid counts or the senseless accusation over the color of the jersey worn by a badminton player.

Outstanding performance in a major sports event can pacify minds, helping to restore peace in the community.

Remember how, despite the pandemic, people in England were euphoric when their team reached the final of the Euro Cup final - even though that euphoria soon evaporated after the result.

Sport is a medicine that can offer a cure for depressing social ills.

Today, swimmer Siobhan Haughey will compete in the final of the 200-meter freestyle after finishing the second-fastest in the semi-final. Will she win another medal for Hong Kong?

Although this is the first time a Hong Kong swimmer has reached an Olympic final, it's going to be a tough swim this morning since Australian Ariarne Titmus won the 400m freestyle gold on Monday.

It will be another moment to uncork the Champagne if Haughey wins a medal.

Win or lose, these elite Hong Kong athletes have won our utmost respect.

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September 2021

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