Veteran Wong a near-certainty for fifth Olympics
Veteran Wong Kam-po is almost certain to secure a road race ticket to his fifth Olympic Games despite only finishing fifth in yesterday's national road race championship.
The 105-kilometre, seven-lap race in Bride's Pool Road, Tai Po, served as the final round of Olympic qualifying and the 39-year-old gained sufficient points to stay ahead of his younger challengers, including yesterday's race winner Kwok Ho-ting. The Olympic squad is expected to be announced this week.
Kwok finished in two hours, 42 minutes and 28 seconds. Second place went to Cheung King-wai in 2.42.35, while Choi Ki-ho was third in 2.43.11. Wong finished in 2.43.19.
'The Olympic Games is the highest level of competition and we have to send the best rider,' said coach Shen Jinkang. 'It's not like other events where we may consider selecting youngsters to give them more international exposure. The Olympic Games is about results, about challenging the physical and mental limit of a rider. The one who will represent Hong Kong atthe London Games must be competitive against other top riders from all over the world.'
Despite his age, Wong has proved his ability to compete at the highest level by holding pole position in the Asia Tour rankings since April, which accounts for the bulk of the selection points. Wong's fifth place yesterday guaranteed he stays on top in the selection race.
Wong said he felt as strong as ever despite the demanding training sessions set by the coach.
'I am quite happy with my recent form and feel strong, mentally and physically,' he said. 'Although it may take a bit longer to recover after a hard training session, I can still handle it.
'I won stages in the Tour of Taiwan and Tour of Japan this year and also came first in the Asian championships. These results show I am still competitive.'
Shen has been making his cyclists ride more than 250 kilometres daily in the highlands around Kunming over the past few weeks to prepare his charges for the 250km London Olympics road race. The squad will return to Kunming today to continue their altitude training.
'Wong still has the same determination and power he had when he came to me for training 19 years ago,' said the coach. 'It's just amazing.'
Hong Kong have won a record six cycling berths for the London Games.