'Heavyweight' Wong surprised by recall to national side
HONG Kong's star cyclist Wong Kam-po, who was banned from international races for one year for deserting the trouble-plagued 1992 pre-Olympic training squad in France, has been recalled to the national side.
The 20-year-old is in the 10-strong training squad named by the Hong Kong Cycling Association to prepare for a series of international events this year, including the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.
Wong was surprised by his inclusion in the team as he had only got back into competition three months ago following a year-long lay-off.
''I was only cycling for fun and never thought of getting into the national team when I got back into local racing this season,'' said Wong, who has put on at least a stone since he stopped racing and now weighs around 140 pounds.
''I haven't really produced any outstanding results so far and it will be very difficult getting back into top form, but I'll be putting in more effort now that I'm picked for the training squad.'' Wong is considered the most talented cyclist Hong Kong has ever produced, being the territory's only individual medallist at international level when he won the junior title at the 1991 Asian Championships in Beijing.
He was a member of a six-strong squad sent to France in 1992 for training prior to the Barcelona Olympic Games. He made his mark by winning a professional race in St Helen and became the first and only Hong Kong rider to gain Category One status in Europe.
But the Hong Kong team's pre-Olympic training turned sour because of a wage dispute between coach Chow Tat-ming and the HKCA. Wong quit the team in support of his coach and went to Canada to visit his sister.
The HKCA slapped a four-month domestic ban and a one-year overseas ban on Wong upon his return to the territory in September 1992.
Wong made his return to racing in the opening race of the 1993-94 season last October, but quit after about two-thirds of the 77-kilometre event at Sai Kung.
He bounced back to the winners' rostrum last week by winning a 44-kilometre race for Category 3 ''novice'' riders.
Leung Hung-tak, a former Hong Kong international who was recently appointed the new national coach, admitted Wong was picked on his past laurels.
But Leung added: ''Wong has exceptional talent and he is capable of being the number one in Hong Kong again when he regains his fitness, both physically and mentally.
''He is still a long way from his best and would have to prove himself before he dons a Hong Kong jersey again but the Commonwealth and Asian Games are still a long way off and I hope to see him in both teams.'' Others in the training squad are Hui Chak-bor, Chan Lung, Cheng Kwok-chiu, Kwok Yiu-chung, Man Wai-chung, Wong Yuk-sing, Chong Dat-fai, Kong Cho-yam, Cheng wing-man.
The next international race is the Tour de Taiwan series from February 18-29 and the HKCA will pick five representatives from among the triallists.