China’s Olympians show off their skills to delighted Hong Kong crowds on second day of city tour
Fans who were lucky enough to get hold of some of the 5,700 tickets, which sold out in just a few hours, got to see their favourite athletes perform on Sunday
China’s Olympic medallists have a packed schedule on the second day of their visit to Hong Kong, with the star athletes showing off their world-class skills in front of thousands of fans, and getting up close and personal with members of the public.
Fans who were lucky enough to get hold of some of the 5,700 tickets, which sold out in just a few hours, got to see their favourite athletes perform.
Four-time Olympic champion diver Wu Minxia is due to show off her perfect diving routine at Victoria Park swimming pool, while badminton star Chen Long faces off with fellow compatriot Lin Dan at Queen Elizabeth Stadium.
Olympian City, a major shopping mall in Kowloon, was packed with visitors trying to catch a glimpse of the 12 “golden girls” of the women’s volleyball squad and their head coach Lang Ping on Sunday morning.
The team, with an average height of 1.9 metres, towered over the crowds, and turned on the charm for a group of 200 children by greeting them in Cantonese.
A lucky few were chosen to play a series of games with the gold medallists.
“They looked so much taller in person,” Melanie Hui, 8, said.
She added that she was most excited to see Lang Ping, the first in history to have won an Olympic gold as a player and coach in the sport.
Sports fan Choco Lai, 20, took three days off work to see star swimmer Sun Yang, and said her dream had come true.
Her idol stopped briefly on his way out of the hotel on Sunday morning to wave at her saying: “I remember you.”
“It’s all worth it,” Lai said as she wiped a tear from her eye.
Lai waited at the hotel for 12 hours on Saturday just to hand him a stuffed toy, a handwritten letter and a photo that they took four years ago on his maiden post-Olympic visit to Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, seven gold medallists – including weightlifters Long Qianquan, Shi Zhiyong, Deng Wei, Xiang Yanmei and Meng Suping as well as 20km walk winners Wang Zhen and Liu Hong – attended another event in Ma On Shan to share their experiences with hundreds of young people.
Long, who won his first gold medal in 2008 and subsequently visited Hong Kong that year, said things had changed a lot over the past eight years and he was very happy to be here again.
“I hope I could be China’s first weightlifter in the Tokyo Olympics [in 2020] by winning the third gold medal,” he said, to loud applause from the crowd.
Liu also encouraged the some 1,300 youngsters from 18 uniformed groups to pursue their dreams, as she said “dreams could conquer all obstacles”.
The weightlifters showed their strength by joining a mini-competition with the young audience – to wring out wet towels. Liu and Wang also demonstrated the correct posture for racewalking to the crowd.
Bosco Lo, a Form One student who won a T-shirt with the autograph of the seven athletes, said the medallists were very down-to-earth and the sharing was inspiring as it had shown persistence was the key to success.
But he said he would prefer having such interaction with the local athletes instead.
“I want to have a dialogue with the Hong Kong team more. They have played very well even though they did not win any medals,” Lo said. “The Hong Kong team is closer to us.”
The 64-strong delegation, which is spending three days in the city, received a raucous welcome from fans and bewildered tourists who gathered at the InterContinental Grand Stanford Hotel to meet them on Saturday afternoon.
The visit comes at a time of intense controversy over calls for independence and the rising tide of localism in the city, but the sports stars brushed aside questions on strained ties between the city and the mainland during a press conference, instead focusing on the enthusiastic reception from locals.
Despite their hectic schedule, a number of athletes were still able to enjoy some time off.
Table tennis stars Zhang Jike and Ding Ning were seen ducking into a private car outside the hotel, having changed out of their red and yellow uniforms and into casual outfits, while swimmer Sun Yang had a meal with his parents.
A source told the Post that many athletes had friends and relatives who specially made the trip to Hong Kong to visit them, as it was rare for them to be able to carve out time during their training.
Hui Ruoqi, captain of the female volleyball team, was spotted by local media shopping at French luxury jeweller Cartier. The store, which usually closes at 9pm at weekends, held a private shopping session for the 25-year-old athlete at 10pm before she jumped back into a taxi headed back to the hotel.
Security was tight at the five-star hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui where the athletes were staying. At least eight bodyguards were stationed in the lobby on Saturday evening to fend off dozens of adoring fans, while two floors were fenced off from hotel guests.
Additional reporting by Emily Tsang and Chris Lau