Raise the bar, HK athletes told
Hong Kong's athletes were yesterday challenged to raise the bar as officials prepared to announce a squad of 41 for next month's London Olympics.
The Hong Kong Olympic Committee has set June 29 as the deadline for respective sports to submit their list of qualifiers, but there is little doubt the number of Olympians will be the highest since a cap was introduced in 2000.
Hong Kong sent 34 athletes to the Beijing Games four years ago and 32 to the 2004 Games in Athens. In 2000, the year in which the International Olympic Committee introduced a cap on the number of participants, 31 went to the Sydney Games. The city sent 47 to the 1984 and 1992 Games.
'The Olympic Games have become more and more elite and only the very best athletes are able to compete,' said Pang Chung, the honorary secretary general of the Olympic Committee. 'We are happy to see an increasing number of Hong Kong athletes taking part in the Games and it has proved we are on the right track, especially after our achievements at the Asian Games in Guangzhou two years ago.
'There is little doubt we have established ourselves in many sports at the regional level and it's time the athletes raise the bar to challenge the highest standard, although I would say many of them still have to work harder before they can call themselves real Olympic medal challengers.'
Hong Kong captured a record eight gold, 15 silver and 17 bronze medals at the Guangzhou Asian Games, finishing a respectable 11th among the 45 competing countries and regions.
Pang did not specify which sport he felt would have the greatest medal chances in London, s but praised the performance of track cyclist Lee Wai-sze for her remarkable results over the past couple of months.
Pang also expressed admiration for the dedication of athletes in sports who had not benefited from the Sports Institute's elite training programme.
The latest non-elite athlete from a sport to secure an Olympic berth is weightlifter Yu Weili, who won the first medal for Hong Kong at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha when she clinched a bronze in the women's 53kg category.
Based in Changchun, former mainlander Yu, 29, received her HKSAR passport recently after fulfilling the seven-year residency requirement and qualified as one of the 104 women weightlifters in seven weight categories.
'This is the first time Hong Kong will have a weightlifter at the Olympic Games and this is already a great achievement regardless of how Yu finishes in London,' said Pak Chung-ming, a sports executive of the Weightlifting Association.
The men's 4x100 metres relay team have dropped a place to 10th in the qualifying table, but officials are still confident of sending a squad of five. 'There will be 16 teams at the London Games and I don't think the standings will change too much, with qualification closing on July 2,' said Amateur Athletic Association senior vice-chairman Simon Yeung Sai-mo. 'We are sending the team to an invitation meet in Osaka on July 1 where we will meet other potential qualifiers including China, Japan and Australia. We hold a big advantage over them in terms of qualifying times, and that makes us confident.'
Meanwhile, windsurfer Hayley Chan Hei-man was recovering well from a rib injury and should be able to compete in London, an official said.
It is understood Chan remains the only candidate in the sport as Vicky Chan Wai-kei, who finished behind Chan in the selection process, will not be available for the London Games for personal reasons.