Hopefuls have their eyes on qualifying for the Olympics

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2007, 12:00am

Pair look to gain one of four wild cards Hong Kong receives

While competitors were put through their paces in the showjumping competition at Sha Tin last night, two spectators sweating it out high up in the stands had their eyes on the action and on the future.

Kenneth Cheng Man-kit and Samantha Lam are two of the seven members of the Hong Kong equestrian community who have been earmarked as possible representatives in the showjumping at next year's Olympics.

Ahead of them lie stringent qualifying procedures but the pair have a little bit of a leg up, so to speak, thanks to the fact that, as host of the event, Hong Kong receives four wild cards from the Federation Equestre Internationale.

For the 29-year-old Lam, the three days of test events were a chance to check out the facilities - and get a first-hand feel of what things might be like come next August.

'The layout is beautiful,' she said. 'The arenas are fantastic; the stabling is state of the art. It really makes me proud as a Hongkonger. I'd love to go out there and I'm looking forward to getting out there next year, hopefully.'

The 19-year-old Cheng had his qualifying chances boosted last year when he was able to take charge of the Swiss-bred horse Cornalin CH - bought for an estimated HK$2 million - but he knows there is still plenty of hard work ahead.

'Mainly for us now are more international competitions, heading to some big ones in Europe,' he said. 'We just need to get more experience and hopefully compete at night so the horses get used to the lights and the shadow of the fences. The focus for us is mainly competing in Europe, where the big events are.'

Lam said that a lot would depend on the standard of horse the Hong Kong hopefuls have beneath them.

'From here, we really need to be concentrating on getting our COC's [certificates of competence],' said Lam.

'We are both going to need horsepower for that. Kenneth has a good horse, I have a very young horse and he's just starting the Grand Prix.

'In fact, maybe it's a bit early for the Grand Prix but we're pushing. So we're both waiting and hoping to get some sponsors to help us with the horses.'

Good news for them, then, that the Jockey Club is believed to be putting together a HK$30 million fund to help riders qualify next year.

'Most people know about racing, when it comes to horses, but not much else,' said Lam.

'But this is a good starting off point for people and we are both really looking forward to hopefully being out there this time next year and representing Hong Kong.'



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