Last year's Hong Kong cross-harbour swimming champions retain titles

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 October, 2012, 12:52pm

The winners of last year's cross-harbour swimming race yesterday held on to their titles despite fierce competition from a bigger field over a shorter course than last year's event.

Women's champion Natasha Tang Wing-yung, who took part in the London Olympics earlier this year, finished the race in 17 minutes and 21 seconds. Ling Tin-yu retained the men's title by completing the course in 16 minutes and 57 seconds.

The competition was thought to be tougher this year because the race route was 1.5 kilometres, 300 metres shorter than last year, when it was revived after a 33-year suspension.

The number of registered entrants increased, from 1,000 to 1,800, although only 1,679 swimmers, from 12 to 78 years of age, actually took part, according to the Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association, the race's organisers.

The course was relocated, with the finishing point moved from Quarry Bay Park to Sai Wan Ho Harbour Park Public Pier, with the start at Sam Ka Tsuen Public Pier in Lei Yue Mun.

Two disabled swimmers took part, one of them deaf and the other suffering from paralysis of the legs.

Wong Kin-ming, 54, who has had suffered from paralysis since he was four years old, said before the race: "It's the first time I have taken part. The biggest challenge for today is myself, but I hope to finish the race in an hour."

Despite completing the course, Wong was disqualified because he jumped into the water with the wrong group.

"I thank everyone for giving me the encouragement and support to finish the race," Wong said. He swims five to six times a week for 11/2 hours each time, and will join the cross-Tolo Harbour open race next week.

George Cho Chiu-ho, 19, who has been deaf since birth, wrote: "I didn't give up because there're people with good health who gave me a lot of support."

The race, revived in response to popular demand after its suspension in 1978, had been an annual tradition attracting hundreds of swimmers and thousands of spectators since 1906..

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse