'Weakened' table tennis teams rise to the occasion
Hong Kong sent a weakened table tennis team at the All China Secondary Schools Students' Games in Inner Mongolia because the best players are competing in the Asian Junior Championships in India.
The line-ups for the boys' and girls' competitions at the Games were finalised only after the players had arrived in Baotou. Yet they insisted they would still be competitive, even though both the girls' and boys' teams started slowly.
The boys lost their first two matches, 2-3 to Jiangxi and 1-3 to Guangxi, before their form improved.
Poon Sheung-hei, Hong Kong's number two singles player, inspired the boys' team, helping them to three successive victories over Heilongjiang, Zhejiang and Hainan. His outstanding performances attracted large crowds of supporters. However, Sheung-hei attributed much of his success in the competition to 'luck'. He added: 'My coach's strategy worked well for me. I just treated every point seriously and tried to win the match.'
His heroics under pressure included saving match points against Heilongjiang before helping Hong Kong to claim a memorable victory.
Sheung-hei also inspired Kwan Man-ho, the number three singles player, who battled bravely to beat players that were taller and stronger than him.
The girls, who finished 12th out of the 16 participating teams, also had their number two player, Crystal Ng Wing-kei, to thank for their improved performances later in the competition.
Lam Ka-luk, Hong Kong's table tennis team manager, said: 'It is always difficult to play against any Chinese city at table tennis because standards are so high. Yet, I've been really impressed by our players' performances here.
'Both Sheung-hei and Crystal are at the top of their game right now. They play without fear when facing opponents that are of the same level or even stronger. I hope they can maintain their outstanding form in the individual events.'
The teams now enjoy a break, including sampling a traditional Inner Mongolian lamb hotpot, before the individual competition starts.