Macau gives swimmer 2008 dreams

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2007, 12:00am

Top swimmer Sherry Tsai Hiu-wai has set her sights on reaching the semi-finals at the Beijing Olympics after her success at last week's Asian Indoor Games in Macau.

The 24-year-old finished with gold medals in each of the eight events she participated in at the second version of the games, in which the Hong Kong delegation captured a total medal haul of 15 gold, nine silver and 11 bronze.

'Tsai has become a more mature swimmer after spending a couple of years in the United States,' said Hong Kong coach Chan Yiu-hoi at last night's reception for the Hong Kong delegation.

'She did not start very well when she first went to the States, but now she has totally adapted to the training system there. If she keeps improving, she has a great chance of making it to the last 16 in her pet event - the 100 metres backstroke - in Beijing.'

Based at the University of California, Berkeley, Tsai said winning loads of medals in Macau was not the most important result.

'The more important lesson is how you learn to perform under pressure. The medals came only as a bonus,' said Tsai. 'Macau has been a good experience and I have learned a lot.

'I still think there is room for improvement between now and Beijing, especially in how to improve my efficiency through a better body co-ordination.'

Tsai admitted her best chance in the Beijing Olympics lies in the 100m backstroke. 'Of course I am not telling you I am a 100 per cent sure of reaching the last 16, but this is the target I will work towards in the coming nine months,' she said.

No Hong Kong swimmer has finished in the top 16 at any Olympic Games, Chan said.

Although Tsai has graduated from Berkeley, she will return to the US between now and July to train. The university boasts one of the best swimmers in the world - women's 100m back world record holder Natalie Coughlin.

'My school team is of a very high standard and I can learn a lot from training with them,' said Tsai. 'The US Olympic trials will begin in July and I will come back to Hong Kong by that time for my final tune-up for the Beijing Games.'

So far, Tsai and three other women swimmers have qualified for Beijing and Chan also expected sprinter Sze Hang-yu to be added to the list.

'She has the ability to make it, especially in the 100m butterfly and two other freestyle sprints - 50 metres and 100 metres,' said Chan. 'If she can overcome the pressure, she stands a very good chance.'

Medal honours

Hong Kong finished third in the Macau medal tally behind China (102) and Thailand (69)

Hong Kong's total medal haul at the Asian Indoor Games in Macau: 35