Chance for disabled riders to stake claim
A bid by local riders to qualify for the Paralympics in London next year receives a boost with the hosting of the Hong Kong International Para-Equestrian Dressage competition at Beas River next week.
In addition, the 4th Asia-Pacific Conference for disabled riders will be conducted in parallel in the city.
This is the first time a Paralympics qualifying event is being held in Asia, much to the delight of the Hong Kong Equestrian Federation (HKEF), which believes the chances of a five-strong team qualifying for both the team and individual events have been boosted by their taking part in a home event.
'This is a huge advantage for us. For starters, the riders will be able to use their own horses and enjoy home conditions. They will be taking part in front of their own fans and I hope this will help them score maximum points,' said Gerald Kuh, an executive committee member of the HKEF.
Four countries will take part in the three-day event beginning on Sunday: Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The five-strong local team are made up of Rob Arro, Sophie Milner, Timothy Tsang Tin-chi, Natasha Tse Pui-ting and Bryan Chan Pak-yin. Of the lot, only Natasha Tse has achieved the minimum eligibility standard and the HKEF hopes the rest will also be able to qualify.
'There is only one berth available for Asia in the team event and two in the individual events,' Kuh said. 'Right now, we are in stiff competition with Singapore for the right to go to the Paralympics, but things could change, with Japan also coming into the picture, even though they are not taking part here.'
The qualifying deadline for both the team and individual events is January 31. At present, Hong Kong are ahead of Singapore on points, but the riders from the Lion City will be taking part in a couple of events in Europe next month, according to Kuh.
Hong Kong's only previous representation at the Paralympics was in 2008 when Nelson Yip Siu-hong took part. However, he didn't have to go through a lengthy qualifying process and only needed to reach a minimum eligibility standard as Hong Kong was hosting the equestrian competition as part of of the Beijing Olympics. Hong Kong's able-bodied equestrian team have failed to qualify for the London Olympics.