Lee looks in good shape for Asian Championships
Olympian Daniel Lee Chi-wo demonstrated why he was the obvious choice to spearhead Hong Kong's Asian Triathlon Championship squad yesterday when he successfully defended his aquathon title, completing the 2.4km run, 500m swim and 2.4km run in 17 minutes and 27 seconds for a 23-second victory over New Zealand's Martin van Barneveld.
Andrew Wright, who raced shoulder to shoulder with Lee until the final kilometre of the second run in the Golden Beach Aquathon at Tuen Mun, clocked 17:57 to finish third.
The 10-man squad that will represent Hong Kong in the Asian Triathlon Championships in Singapore in just over a month will be chosen on Thursday.
National coach Ruth Hunt said yesterday that training and preparation had gone well for the Hong Kong team, and that she expected good results from the squad at the Singapore event, which will take place in the first week of July.
Winning medals is now more important than ever as triathlon is one of four sports in danger of losing its elite status and government funding under a performance system that sees it currently ranked in 13th place out of 14 sports, four of which have just 18 months to improve their points rating.
'Triathlon is an endurance sport which requires a lot of time, effort and dedication for training,' said Hunt. 'It's difficult to compare triathlon with other sports on the elite sports list as they all require different levels of input.'
It would certainly seem difficult to group triathlon, wushu and tenpin bowling all into the same category, but as each sport relies heavily on government subvention they are all graded by the same criteria.
The triathlon team will be greatly affected if the Hong Kong Sports Institute is closed and given over to the Jockey Club in preparation for the equestrian events for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as most of the squad's training is carried out at the Sha Tin-based institute.
'Basically all of our training facilities are located at Sha Tin - swimming, the cycling velodrome, gymnasium and all of our testing facilities,' added Hunt.
Hunt has been the inspirational force behind the rise in popularity of triathlon in Hong Kong, and has implemented junior training programmes that have seen a growing number of promising youngsters come through to claim medals at top Asian events.
Well over 1,000 people competed in yesterday's run-swim-run aquathon at the Gold Coast in Tuen Mun, a venue that Hunt is trying to secure for next year's Asian Aquathon Championships.
'At the moment we're talking to the management of the Gold Coast Hotel as we would need to use part of their premises in the 5km run,' said Hunt. 'We have to bid for the right to host the championships by July 1 this year, but unless we can use part of the hotel grounds we won't be able to provide the 5km distance required for the run, and that would be a great shame because this is an excellent venue.'