Hong Kong’s sole Winter Olympian, Barton Lui Pan-to, had been passed fit by a doctor before he left to take part in the Winter Games in Sochi, said senior Hong Kong Olympic Committee official Pang Chung.
Pang arrived back from Russia on Wednesday morning to a controversy after speed skater Lui slammed the decision not to send a team doctor to Sochi.
The official expressed surprise at Lui’s claim that a lack of medical attention for previous injuries had left him below his physical peak before his short-track event.
“He was medically examined by our doctors before he left as is the normal practice,” said Pang, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee. “Any athlete who fails the medical test prior to major international games is not allowed to go. He was passed and he went to Sochi.”
Lui had said his request for a doctor had been turned down as there was no more room in the seven-strong Hong Kong delegation.
“Yes, we had six officials and there was no room for a doctor. We felt it wasn’t necessary as we just had one athlete in the squad,” Pang said. “We normally take a doctor along when we take big squads such as those for an Asian Games, or even the Summer Games."
Pang said the committee felt the medical facilities at the athletes’ village would suffice for Barton. “In addition, if we had taken a doctor along without official accreditation, they would not have been able to enter the athletes’ village or the competition venue,” Pang said.
The Hong Kong delegation included the athlete, his coach, Pang, Hong Kong Skating Union president Yip Siu-yin, chef de mission Ronnie Wong Man-chiu, another official from the Hong Kong Sports Federation and Olympic Committee who served as media liaison and Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, the president of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee.
“Tim and I were part of the Hong Kong delegation but we were there as International Olympic Committee members,” Pang said, adding that skating union president Yip had taken the spot usually reserved for a team attache.
“All the other officials were necessary and we didn’t have room for a doctor who wasn’t needed in the first place as [Barton] had been passed fit,” the senior official said.
Pang said Barton had been given all the support he needed, including “helping his parents buy tickets for the competition”.
Lui, 20, Hong Kong’s first male Winter Olympian, finished fifth out of six in his 1,500-metre heat last Sunday.