Having conquered Asia, the Hong Kong men's relay team are now setting their sights on next month's world championships in Moscow, where they hope to confirm their position as the continent's top runners - and set a new record in the process.
Tang Yik-chun, Lai Chun-ho, Ng Ka-fung, Tsui Chi-ho and Ho Man-lok won the 4x100 metres relay at the Asian championships in Pune, India, at the weekend, beating out traditional continental powers Japan and China. They are the only Hong Kong athletes to have ever won a gold medal at the championships, which were being held for the 20th time.
"The Asian championships was our first target of the year and clinching a gold medal there can only boost our confidence," said Tsui, who is also Hong Kong's 100-metre record holder. "In Pune we clocked 38.94 seconds, which is slower than our Hong Kong record of 38.47 seconds, but still we are pleased to have come out on top. Now our priority is to go below the 38.47 mark at the world championships."
The quartet will be Hong Kong's only representatives in Moscow, having bettered the minimum qualification time of 39.2 seconds in a number of races.
"The Moscow event features the finest sprinters in the world and it would be unrealistic to even dream of a medal," Tsui said. "But we have to take advantage of the atmosphere - it will be just like the Olympic Games - and at least aim for a new Hong Kong record. Competing against the world's best should push us to go faster than ever."
Coach Yu Lik urged his charges to stay focused despite winning the Asian title. "There are a number of major events coming up and the boys should not get carried away just because they are Asian champions," Yu said. "Other than the world championships, we will also race at the National Games [in September] and the East Asian Games [in October]."
Yu added that after the result in India, Hong Kong would be among the favourites to make the podium at those two events. "The other team will now see us as serious threats but we do not have to worry. The boys are confident and I am optimistic that they can handle the pressure of being favourites. If they can keep their form, they can certainly win more medals."