The last man to win the cross-harbour swim in 1978 - barred by organisers from this year's event - has decided to take his bid to compete to the Equal Opportunities Commission.
Gary Claydon, a medical doctor living in Australia, applied to take part next Sunday in the first harbour race in 33 years. But, having met all other requirements, he was told he could not take part because he did not have a Hong Kong identity card.
Race organisers, the Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association, remained adamant against changing their stance. Claydon, however, is not giving up hope of competing.
'I have had some initial legal advice in Hong Kong and I am going to bring it up with the Equal Opportunities Commission,' Claydon, 49, said. 'Everyone I have spoken to is of the same opinion and feels that the association has been very unfair, so I will pursue my case.'
He said that in the event's regulations it clearly stated that those looking to compete must show a 'HKID card/identification form', which was required solely as a form of identification so that organisers could verify competitors' names.
'I fulfilled these requirements by providing my Australian passport details that prove my identity,' he said. 'It's really shabby treatment, especially when swimmers from Macau have been allowed to take part, but I can't.'
Claydon was in town yesterday to compete in the 15-kilometre Clean Half open water event from Stanley's main beach to Deepwater Bay, and finished second in the men's category in a time of three hours and 50 minutes.
He had no problem registering as it was not a swimming association-organised event.
A swimming association spokeswoman said participation in the cross-harbour race was limited to 1,000 entrants, restricting the race to Hong Kong residents. Possession of a HKID card was deemed 'the most easily understood and objective criteria for screening participants'.
The association said they invited teams from Macau as part of 'an experience-sharing exercise'. They planned to expand the race's scope and scale in the future.
'We certainly appreciate Mr Claydon's interest in taking part,' the spokeswoman said. 'We welcome his views, and we'll be sure to take them into consideration when we plan next year's event.'
Claydon lived in Hong Kong from early childhood until he was 18 and left for university in Britain.
A talented swimmer, he held the Hong Kong 1,500 metres record for eight years, was once voted Sportsboy of the Year by the Hong Kong sports fraternity and was virtually unbeatable at local swimming meetings. Claydon bested 600 other participants to win the last cross-harbour race - when he was only 16.
He visits the city every year and has a home in Stanley.
'My father worked in the Hong Kong government for 30 years and my mother died here,' he said. 'I have some really poignant reasons for taking part. I have a real attachment to the city. It's my second home.'
Claydon now lives in Perth, Western Australia, and has swum in open water races in Australia almost every year. Hong Kong's 1.8-kilometre cross-harbour race will be from Sam Ka Tsuen pier in Lei Yue Mun to the Quarry Bay Park.