HANGZHOU, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- Fencer Huang Qianqian achieved a remarkable feat at the Hangzhou Asian Games here on Monday, becoming China's first woman to win the individual foil gold at the Asiad in 21 years.
The past three months have been a rollercoaster for Huang as she competed in the Asian Championships, World Championships, and the Chengdu Universiade in both individual and team events. Her journey led her to the Asian Games piste at the Hangzhou Dianzi University Gymnasium.
During the group stage, Huang secured five wins out of six matches, effortlessly defeating Chayada Smithisukul of Thailand with a score of 15-7. Her next challenge was world No. 6, Sera Azuma, in the quarterfinals.
Huang's last encounter with Azuma occurred during the women's foil team final against Japan at the 2023 Asian Championships in Wuxi, China, this June. In that match, Huang suffered a 10-2 defeat en route to China's overall loss of 45-27.
"I was completely outmatched," Huang recalled of the bout. "I was struggling during that time, unable to find my best form, and my opponents had figured out how to exploit my weaknesses with targeted tactics."
This period was arguably the most challenging in Huang's fencing career, as she had less than a month to adjust and adapt before heading to Milan for the World Championships.
"I rushed to acquire new skills, but improvement always takes time. I almost felt like giving up and cried daily. I had no confidence in myself whatsoever," said the 21-year-old, who had no choice but to persevere.
Despite being the youngest and the only member of the Chinese women's foil team without prior World Championships experience, Huang ultimately emerged as the most impressive.
She qualified for the elimination rounds with six consecutive group victories and faced seeded fencer Leonie Ebert of Germany in the round of 32. Huang trailed for most of the match but managed to take a one-point lead with just seven seconds remaining. Despite receiving a penalty, Huang scored the decisive hit that propelled her into the last 16 at a major international competition for the first time.
"Ebert was also a left-hander, which made me uncomfortable. I told myself to give it my all for that crucial point," said Huang, who finished in 15th place in her World Championships debut, becoming the highest-ranked Chinese woman foil fencer in Milan.
"I learned a lot and made significant improvements. I regained my confidence."
Just days after achieving her career milestone, Huang participated in the Chengdu Universiade. As a junior at Fujian Normal University, she teamed up with Chen Qingyuan and Fu Yiting to secure a team gold, earning her a spot at the Asian Games.
Facing Azuma once again in Hangzhou, Huang had a much better mindset. Despite falling behind from the very first point, Huang remained disciplined in her tactics, displaying patience and fearlessness.
After mounting a remarkable comeback to force a sudden-death situation, Huang skillfully defended against a powerful lunge from Azuma and then advanced on the piste to score the crucial point, stunning the Japanese opponent with an 11-10 victory.
Following her victory over the highest-ranked woman foil fencer in Asia, Huang's path to gold encountered no particularly challenging moments as she comfortably defeated Hong Se-na of South Korea and Yuka Ueno of Japan to claim her first-ever major title.
"It's a dream come true for me," said Huang, who was initially shy and reserved in the mixed zone. "I never thought I could make it to the final, so I gave it my all."
When asked about her plans for celebrating her maiden title, Huang smiled and replied, "I just want to rest."