HK have uphill battle qualifying for 2012, despite Choi success
Hong Kong face a daunting task to qualify for the London Olympics despite the recent success of promising rider Choi Ki-ho in the Tour de Korea.
The 20-year-old beat a strong field of international riders to win the general classification in the gruelling nine-stage race last month, and his Asian ranking has surged from 46th to 17th.
Hong Kong's nation ranking also jumped one place to seventh in the latest lists.
Only the top four nations in the Asia Tour are eligible to send road-race riders to the 2012 Olympic Games. While Japan and Iran are the two runaway leaders in the standings, third-placed South Korea also stand a good chance of making it.
Both Japan and Iran have scored more than 600 points, followed by South Korea with 218. Malaysia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and Hong Kong have collected points ranging from 120 to 180.
'Kazakhstan, currently in the sixth place, are likely to qualify through the World Tour rankings as they have a lot of riders competing in Europe. Their position in Asia will not affect us much,' said Hong Kong coach Shen Jinkang. 'Our major concern will be Malaysia and Indonesia, who are in the fifth and sixth position respectively. They have organised many races in their region this year and Hong Kong was not invited. Also, there are not too many tours left in the calendar before the qualification period closes in September.'
The Tour de Kumano in Japan later this month could be one of the targets. Although the city is in southern Japan near Osaka, some Hong Kong riders, including Choi, have already indicated they will not participate because of the fear of radiation from the nuclear plant damaged in the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in early March. So far, only Wong Kam-po has confirmed his participation.
To boost qualifying prospects, Hong Kong will be sending riders to several top-class events in Asia, even though it may be very difficult to score points in these races.
Hong Kong's 20-year-old cyclist Choi Ki-ho has jumped in the Asian rankings from 46th to this position: 17th