Hong Kong secure hat-trick of titles
Hong Kong men and women still rule the waves - in the water polo pool - after successfully defending both their titles for the third successive year at the Panasonic 13th Asia Pacific tournament at Kowloon Park Swimming Pool last Sunday.
The men's A team retained their trophy - despite the disappointment of a nervy 10-9 defeat by Japan in the first of the round-robin medal matches.
Japan's 16-11 loss to Guangdong meant that Hong Kong A still had a chance of victory. First they needed to beat Guangdong to draw level with their two rivals on one win each. They also needed to improve on Guangdong's best winning margin against Japan of five clear goals to lift the trophy.
A fired-up Hong Kong A thrashed Guangdong 15-8 in the decider to win the tournament.
Hong Kong's C team finished seventh and Hong Kong's B team came ninth.
In the women's competition, which featured rival teams from Macau and Thailand, Hong Kong women reigned supreme by winning all their matches to remain as champions.
The competition began last Friday, with group matches held over the first two days.
In the men's event, Hong Kong's A team, Guangdong and Japan advanced to the round robin medal matches.
Nerves were to blame for Hong Kong's 10-9 defeat by Japan.
'Water polo requires lots of stamina,' Chung Kwok-leung, 27 Hong Kong A's star player, said.
'Our strategy was for me use my energy and play at full speed at the beginning of the match. That also wasted the energy of Japanese leading players as they needed to focus on defence.
'However, towards the end of the match, our younger players were very nervous and failed to take advantage of the fact that the Japanese players were already exhausted. Unfortunately we ended narrowly losing.'
After being able to relax and watch Japan lose to Guangdong, Hong KongA knew what they had to do to retain the title. They swiftly moved into a 4-0 lead in the first period.
Guangdong battled back but inevitably found the home side much too strong and determined.
Kwok-leung, who has played in each of Hong Kong's three title-winning tournaments, was delighted to help the men's team retain their title yet again.
'I have played in all three of the tournaments and this year's victory is definitely the best of all. It is also nice to see the young players playing better in the final match against Guangdong. Our young goalie, Kenneth Cheng Ka-long, in particular, did a brilliant job.'
Player-coach Zhao Jinwen is already looking ahead to next year. 'It is good to win, but I expect next year's competition will be more intense,' he said. 'Japan will aim to recapture their title, so may have stronger players in their line-up next time. I hope our younger players will mature and meet the challenge.'
Women's team captain Yeung Sze-wai praised her unbeaten players for all efforts. 'They have trained hard over the past two years and the hard work paid off.'
For full results go to www.hkasa.org.hk