Wilson 'must decide her allegiance'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 April, 2007, 12:00am

Officials warn teen ace risks Beijing dream if she does not take HK passport

Leading swimmer Hannah Wilson has been strongly advised to get a Hong Kong passport if she wishes to take part in the Beijing Olympics next summer.

Ronnie Wong Man-chiu, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association, warned Wilson she could not rely on a special dispensation like she did for the Athens Games.

'We strongly recommend Hannah gets a Hong Kong SAR passport,' Wong said. 'I don't think she will be able to get another dispensation from the International Olympic Committee.'

In 2004, the IOC allowed Wilson and seven other local athletes to compete, despite them not possessing a Hong Kong passport. Athletes can only take part if they hold a passport of the country they represent.

'The IOC told us at the time the dispensation was a one-off, and there wouldn't be any special exemptions the next time around. She should apply for her SAR passport,' said Wong, who is also the deputy secretary-general of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee.

Wilson, 18, who qualified for Beijing in the 100m freestyle at the world championships in Melbourne last month, said yesterday she was still in two minds.

'I have still not given up my British passport,' she said. 'I most definitely want to swim in the Olympics again, but for the moment I will wait and see before deciding what to do.' Top swimming official David Chiu Chin-hung also strongly advised Wilson against taking a passive stance.

'We can't bank on the IOC giving her a dispensation, or for that matter the Hong Kong Olympic Committee taking up her case again. She must get an SAR passport,' said Chiu, who was manager of the swimming squad in Athens.

Wilson will leave for the US in August to continue her studies at the University of Berkeley in California.

It will take at least six months for the Immigration Department to process a passport application.

'Although Hannah swam an Olympics qualifying time [57.09 seconds], she is not assured of representing Hong Kong in Beijing,' Chiu said. 'What she has done is book Hong Kong a berth in the Olympics. If another girl swims a faster time, then the place will go to her.'

Wilson, whose personal best is a Hong Kong record 56.51 seconds, created a stir four years ago when she qualified for the Olympics but faced being omitted because at 15 years old she was a minor and could not renounce her British citizenship.

But committee president Timothy Fok Tsun-ting championed her case personally with IOC president Jacques Rogge. Wilson was given a last-minute reprieve. Six table tennis players and badminton star Wang Chen were also exempted.

Hong Kong-born Wilson is no longer a minor and can get a Hong Kong passport.

Sherry Tsai Hiu-wai also booked two more Beijing berths at the world championships - in the 100m backstroke and 200m individual medley.

'We expect more swimmers to qualify inside the Olympic B standards,' added Chiu.