Officials hand out gagging order to HK team coach
Shen Jinkang was honoured yesterday for his services as coach of the Hong Kong team but he can't talk about the sport, his success or his charges after being muzzled by the cycling association.
Unhappy that Shen was 'talking to the media too much', the executive committee gagged him as the team start the Tour of Qinghai Lake today in their quest for qualifying points for next year's Olympic Games in London.
Shen (pictured) and Cycling Association president Herman Hu Shao-ming were both awarded the Bronze Bauhinia Star and were among 332 people named in this year's honours list. But his moment in the spotlight was spoiled.
He replied to a South China Morning Post e-mail, which asked for information on how the team were doing after spending a two-week training stint in Qinghai, saying: 'I cannot comment on my riders, whether it is about their performance in the tour or their current situations. I can only send out the results when the race finishes. This is the instruction of the Cycling Association.'
An executive committee member, who did not want to be named, said it was the committee's decision to ban the coach from providing information to the media.
'Some members were not happy with the coach, saying Shen has been talking too much to the media through e-mail,' the member said. 'They also said some of the information involved riders' inner feelings, which should not be disclosed to the media.'
Association deputy general secretary Hung Chung-yam, who was the team manager at last year's Guangzhou Asian Games, said he knew little about the ban.
'It seems to be unreasonable to not allow the coach to make comments on his riders for the media,' Hung said.
'Our sport has prospered under coach Shen and we want more people to know about our riders and their performances.'
Hung said he did not attend the last committee meeting, but hoped to resolve the problem so the team's progress could be followed.
The Qinghai tour, with altitudes rarely dipping below 1,800 metres, starts with a 132-kilometre circuit race in Xining, the provincial capital. Twenty-two teams, including six UCI pro-continental teams, are chasing prize money of US$350,000.
For the Hong Kong team and many other Asian riders, it is also about boosting their chances for the London Olympics, as the qualification period ends in two months.
Hong Kong has sent its best team, with veteran Wong Kam-po racing in his first tour since breaking his collarbone two months ago. While he is making a last-ditch effort to qualify for his fifth Olympics since the 1996 Atlanta Games, the focus will again be on Choi Ki-ho, winner of this year's Tour of Korea. He is 17th in the Asia Tour rankings, the highest-placed Hong Kong cyclist.
Other team members are Kwok Ho-ting, Chan Chun-hing, Yeung Ying-hon and Cheung King-lok.