Atlanta duo eye last major workout
Two of Hong Kong's three Olympic hopefuls leave for Seoul today to compete in their last major tournament before the Atlanta Games next month.
Mixed doubles pair Tim He and Chan Oi-ni will take on some of the strongest teams in the region when they line up for the US$130,000 Ciba Cup Asian tournament starting tomorrow.
Participation is by invitation only, and the territory were only offered one place in the mixed doubles event.
It means there is no room for Hong Kong's other Olympian Chan Siu-kwong, who will partner Tim in the Atlanta men's doubles competition.
Hong Kong will meet tough competition in Seoul, having been drawn in Group B against strong teams from China and South Korea.
Group A features the powerful Korean team of Park Joo-bong and Ra Kyung-min.
National coach Chan Chi-choi said yesterday the players are in need of top-qualify opposition in the buildup to Atlanta.
'At the moment, there is not much depth in Hong Kong and there is really no one to test our best players,' Chan said.
'So it will be good for them to play in this tournament. It is a big event and they will come up against some quality players.' Six of the world's top 13 men's singles players, including Indonesian Hermawan Susanto, Malaysian Rashid Sidek and Taiwan's Fung Permadi, will take part in the tournament.
Because of the lack of serious training partners in Hong Kong, the Olympians will benefit from Chan's decision to invite two Indonesians and one Chinese player to help the team train.
Chan also hopes to take the team, after the Ciba Cup, to either Indonesia or China to complete their pre-Olympic training.
'Basically, the guest players are here to act as sparring partners,' Chan said.
'At least it gives the player a chance to play and train against strong opposition.
'It does not help them if their sparring partners are too weak.' Chan added that the rest of the Hong Kong national team, although not good enough to play in Atlanta, are being groomed to represent the territory at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
'They are very young players and in a few years' time, they will be good enough to play in the top tournaments around the world,' he said.
'By the time the 2000 Olympics come around, I am hoping that they would be good enough to be among the medals.'