Golden ride by Wong ensures glorious start
Steven Wong became an instant icon of Hong Kong sport yesterday after winning the first gold medal at the 2009 East Asian Games.
Racing under fine skies at the newly built 350-metre BMX course at Gin Drinkers' Bay, Kwai Chung, the talented rider was hardly challenged and produced a superb finish in the final to clinch the title.
It was a perfect start for the hosts on the official opening day as another gold medal was won in the afternoon when the men's snooker team, comprising Marco Fu Ka-chun, Fung Kwok-wai and Chan Kwok-ming, beat Taiwan 3-1 in the final. Eric Lee Ming-kai also captured a silver medal in the men's English billiards singles, with fellow Hong Kong player Lee Chen-man taking bronze.
'This is a good beginning and will definitely boost our morale as the Games go on,' said Hong Kong delegation head Vivien Lau Chiang-chu. 'We have never set any target for our team members but we would be very happy if we could ultimately lift our gold tally to double digits.'
Cycling is one of several events introduced to the Games to boost Hong Kong's medal hopes and Wong was delighted to complete the mission of winning the Games' first gold as many had expected, including Hong Kong Olympic Committee chief Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, who attended the race as the awards presenter.
'I feel really happy becoming the first athlete from Hong Kong to win a gold medal, especially as the Games are being held here for the first time,' said 21-year-old Wong, who also won a gold medal for Hong Kong at the 2005 National Games.
'It's really special. There was pressure on me before the race, but we had good preparation and everything went according to plan.
'I hope my victory can raise BMX's profile here and help its development.'
Wong has been training in Hong Kong since he won the Asian Championships on the same course with teammate Alex Hunter in early November. It would have been a one-two finish for the hosts as Hunter was also a favourite for a medal, but unfortunately the National Games bronze medallist crashed in the final and could not finish.
'I didn't ride my best in the final,' a dejected Hunter said. 'It should have been a Hong Kong gold and silver. I'm sorry about that.'
Masahiro Sampei of Japan was second while Zhao Zhiyang, a last-minute recruit from China to increase the starting line-up to five, was third.
In the women's event, China's Ma Liyun of China was first, followed by Ayaka Miwa, of Japan, while another mainlander, Jiang Nannan, was third. They were the only competitors.
Hong Kong team coach Herve Krebs admitted there was a lot of pressure on his charges. 'This was the first gold medal of the Games and all eyes were on us,' he said. 'I told Steven before the race to have a lot of fun and enjoy the experience of riding in front of the home fans. He did pretty well. Alex has to improve his fitness if he wants to compete at the highest level. He made contact with the mainland rider and then crashed. This is something we have to work on.'
Wong will receive HK$100,000 from the Sports Institute's incentive scheme. Both riders will leave for the US and Europe for competition after a short break and return next October for their final build-up for the Asian Games in Guangzhou.
Steven Wong's gold medal in the BMX competition was the first to be awarded out of a total of: 262
The first official day of the East Asian Games ended with Hong Kong competitors' medal haul totalling: 5