Race schedule robs Wong of flag-carrying honour
Veteran cyclist Wong Kam-po was singled out for praise yesterday by sports chief Timothy Fok Tsun-ting after securing a record fifth appearance at the Olympic Games in London - but he lost out on the honour of carrying the bauhinia flag at the opening ceremony.
In announcing the 42-athlete squad for the Games, the largest from Hong Kong since reunification, Fok said the 39-year-old, one of the five cyclists in the squad, had established himself as a role model not only for other athletes, but for the community as a whole.
'His long-term commitment at the highest level has already made him a hero, no matter whether he wins a medal or not in London,' said the Hong Kong Olympic Committee president. 'This is going to be his fifth Olympic Games and we had considered him to be the flag bearer at the opening ceremony, but because he has to start his 250-kilometre road race the next morning, we had to give up on that plan.
'It's a pity Wong cannot make it as it's the biggest honour for an athlete as the Olympic Games flag bearer. We have some difficulty finding an ideal replacement.'
Athletics, fencing and table tennis each have six representatives.
'It will be difficult for a tiny place such as Hong Kong to compete against the world powerhouses,' said chef de mission Vivien Lau Chiang-chu. 'But sports like cycling, badminton, table tennis and windsurfing have been given extra financial support on their way to the London Games and we are expecting some good results from them.'
Meanwhile, the men's 4x100 metre relay team, who qualify as the fastest team from Asia, have been invited to take part in the prestigious Diamond League meeting in Monaco on July 20, where they will be up against the world's best, such as Jamaica, the United States, Great Britain and France.
'It's a lifetime opportunity to run against these teams,' said Hong Kong 100m record holder Tsui Chi-ho. 'We'll be fired up and hopefully we can get a good result to boost our confidence prior to the Games.'
In gymnastics, Shek Wai-hung has been forced to drop the men's all-around event due to a shoulder injury and focus on his pet event, the vault.
Olympiads at which veteran cyclist Wong Kam-po has represented Hong Kong. The London Games will be his fifth.