First for HK as Shek qualifies for Games

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 January, 2012, 12:00am


Shek Wai-hung has become the first gymnast from Hong Kong to qualify for an Olympic Games after a resolute performance at the test event in London.

Last year's world championships vault finalist, Shek finished 12th in the men's all-around competition from a field of 98 athletes at North Greenwich Arena, which will also be the gymnastics venue for the Games this summer.

Hong Kong first entered the Olympics in 1952 in Helsinki, but the city has never had a gymnast compete at the Games. May Kwong Mei-fong received a wild card for the 1998 Games in Seoul, South Korea, when there were no qualifying events, but she did not compete due to injuries.

'It's like a dream come true,' the 20-year-old Shek said. 'I started training at the age of seven and going to the Olympic Games has always been my biggest ambition.

'I failed to make it to the last Games in Beijing four years ago, but when I was later appointed one of the flag bearers for the torch relay in Hong Kong, it just made me more eager to qualify for the London Games. When I saw my results at the test event and realised I had qualified, I was so excited I couldn't sleep all night.'

A vault specialist, Shek scored his highest mark in the event among his six routines with a score of 16.033, putting him in seventh place. But he also maintained a high standard in the remaining five disciplines - the horizontal bar, floor exercise, rings, pommel horse and parallel bars. His overall result will certainly boost his hopes for a medal at the London Games.

'My target is to reach the vault final at the Olympics and hopefully win a medal, but I also want to do well in the horizontal bar,' he said. 'When I return to Hong Kong next week, I will take a short break before heading to China again for an intensive training period leading up to the Games.'

The mainland is familiar territory for Shek, who has been training there since 2009. 'You can't improve unless you train with the best and gymnasts don't come any better than those in China. Training there has worked out really well for me.'

This week's test event is the second qualification competition for the London Games. The eight top teams at last year's world championships were first to qualify, along with the individual apparatus medallists not already in those eight teams. At the test event, the top four teams and the top 30 individual gymnasts also qualify for the Games.

Hong Kong head coach Poon King-hung praised Shek's performance in London, adding his charge still had room for improvement ahead of the Games. 'If he can sharpen and fine tune his skills during the next few months, he will be able to challenge for a medal,' Poon said.

Shek's break through will boost the confidence of Angel Wong Hiu-ying, who is competing in the women's all-around at the test event. Wong won a bronze medal in the vault at the World University Games in Shenzhen last summer and has since focused on the test event.