SAR on verge of promotion after shock win

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 12:00am

Hong Kong made history by winning their group at the Sudirman Cup for the first time yesterday in Seville. But the champagne remains on ice as the team bid to win an unprecedented promotion to Group Two.

The SAR have already pulled off a remarkable achievement at the world mixed team championship by scoring an emphatic 4-1 triumph over India, led by All-England champion Pullela Gopichand. Hong Kong's victory meant they won Group Three B, but head coach Chan Chi-choi said their mission was not yet accomplished as they must focus on today's playoff with Canada.

'It's the best result we've had in a team event. We finished fourth in the Uber Cup Asian Zone qualifier in India last year but this is certainly the one to remember,' said Chan. 'But we are in no mood for celebration yet. We're only a step from qualifying for Group Two.' Hong Kong earlier whitewashed fellow Group minnows Austria and Wales 5-0.

If Hong Kong beat Canada, they will join the eight-strong Group Two, which includes Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan and Holland. The six-team elite club of Group One is led by defending champions China, Indonesia and Denmark.

Gopichand admitted India couldn't match Hong Kong as a team. 'Obviously it's disappointing to lose,' he said. 'We always knew Hong Kong would be tough in the doubles and that was the way it turned out.'

Hong Kong traditionally haven't fared well as a team but they have shown tremendous improvement over the past two years, thanks to the arrivals of former Chinese female international Wang Chen and two male Indonesian players, Agus Hariyanto and Albertus Njoto.

World number 11 Wang, who came second to Danish star Camilla Martin and Olympic champion Gong Zhichao in two five-star grand prix open events last year, put Hong Kong ahead by beating R. Meenakshi 11-7, 11-0.

Although Gopichand levelled for India, Hong Kong demonstrated their strength in the doubles.

Njoto and Koon Wai-chee scored a 15-9, 15-7 win over Chetan Anand and Manjusha Kanwar in the mixed doubles to put Hong Kong 2-1 up, with Wang partnering Ling Wan-ting in the women's doubles to settle the issue as they defeated Gutta Jwala and Shruti Kurian 15-10, 15-12 in the fourth rubber.

Men's doubles pairing Ma Che-kong and Yau Kwun-yuen put the icing on the cake as they defeated Gopichand and Markose Bristow in the dead rubber.