Smash hit – best-ever chance of Olympic medals for Hong Kong’s Rio badminton squad

HKBA chairman Tong Wai-lun says it is the strongest team to represent the city at the Games, with high hopes in men’s singles and mixed doubles

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 6:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2016, 1:11am

Hong Kong’s badminton squad head to Rio with their best chance of winning an Olympic medal, led by men’s singles player Angus Ng Ka-long and the mixed doubles pair of Lee Chun-hei and Cathy Chau Hoi-wah.

If the draw is favourable to us I think we can get medals, especially in the men’s singles and mixed doubles
Tong Wai-lun, HKBA chairman

The Hong Kong Badminton Association is sending a seven-strong squad to the Brazilian city – the largest Hong Kong contingent – and chairman Tong Wai-lun is confident they can become the fourth sport to win an Olympic medal for Hong Kong.

“Yes, I think this is our best chance so far,” said Tong at a meet-the-press gathering at the Hong Kong Sports Institute yesterday. “If the draw is favourable to us I think we can get medals, especially in the men’s singles and mixed doubles and I’m looking forward to them at least getting to the quarter-finals.”

Ng, 22, was ranked 13th in the world while his fellow singles player Hu Yun was 12th as of July 21. But the youngster, who was ranked 10th in early June, is the one to watch for Hong Kong after collecting victories over China’s two-time Olympic gold medallist Lin Dan and Chen Long over the past year.

The mixed doubles pair of Lee and Chau won the Australian Open Superseries tournament in May last year and are expected to challenge for medals.

Tong is hoping the precocious Ng can control his nerves in his maiden Olympics after his victories over two of the world’s best players. The player himself is grateful for the chance to vie for glory in Rio.

“I’m really excited because this is my first Olympics and there are many unknowns over there,” said Ng. “I know I need to calm down more and I’ll just lower my expectations slightly and remind myself that I’m still a young player and I’m getting a lot of experience.

“It’s a big compliment that people expect me to win a medal but I won’t think about that too much and just focus on what I need to do on the court.

“At the same time I’m confident but the players I beat such as Lin Dan and Chen Long, they will be at their peak for the Olympics,” added Ng, who admitted his early ambitions were the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and he never expected to qualify for Rio.

Chau, who was brought up in Hong Kong and Canada, is also among the medal hopes along with her partner Lee. But the 30-year-old said they are not putting themselves under undue pressure.

“If people are saying there is pressure, it is their pressure and not ours,” said Chau. “Our pressure is to perform to the best we can and justify the faith placed in us with all the support we have been given.”

Lee and Chau were handed a tough task after the draw was made in Rio on Tuesday. The mixed doubles pair will face top seeds and defending champions, Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei, of China in group A, which also features Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto, the world number five from Indonesia.

Michael Fuchs and Brigit Michels of Germany complete the group. The top two pairs from each group will advance to the quarterfinals.

“There is no easy draw at such a level,” said Hong Kong head coach Tim He Yiming. “The key for them is to not put themselves under too much pressure so they can achieve their best on court and if they can do that they will have a chance to beat the top Indonesian pair.”

In men’ s singles, top seed Lee Chong-wei of Malaysia may face his greatest rival, Lin Dan of China, the two-time defending Olympic champion, in the semi-finals if the form book holds. The duo clashed in the last two Olympic finals with Lin prevailing on both occasions.