Almost half of the new batch of riders picked for the Hong Kong Jockey Club's Junior Equestrian Training Squad (Jets) are not eligible to take part in an Asian Games.
The Jockey Club announced at the Longines Hong Kong Masters its plans to nurture young equestrian talent and said the 10-strong junior squad would carry the future medal hopes at major competitions, especially the Asian Games and the China National Games. But of the 10 members, nearly half were not born in Hong Kong, or do not possess a local passport.
With the Olympic Council of Asia following IOC guidelines, athletes at the Asian Games will need to have the passport of the country they wish to represent.
Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges admitted some of the athletes did not have the necessary passport but said they had given a commitment that they would apply for an HKSAR passport if the need arose. "Most are Hong Kong-qualified but yes, there are one or two who do not have a Hong Kong passport," said Engelbrecht-Bresges. "But they could become eligible. They have made a commitment to take a Hong Kong passport."
The 10 members of the Jets are; Nathaniel Chan, Patricia Chan, Lennard Chiang, Maya Diao, Kendall Kruger, Arianna Ladd, Leung Oi-man, Michelle Li, Amanda Rojens and Natalie Walker.
A source said there had been dissatisfaction among the Hong Kong equestrian community over the selection of the Jets, apparently because a number of Hong Kong-born children who hold the local travel document being overlooked.
"We picked this squad on the recommendation of the Hong Kong Equestrian Federation [HKEF] who did their assessment before passing it on to us. We then did our own assessment and endorsed it. And yes, the squad has been picked with an eye on future Asian Games and National Games. That is the first objective," Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
HKEF president Simon Ip Sik-on was unavailable for comment. Ip is also the vice-chairman of the Jockey Club.
In August, the Jockey Club extended its sponsorship of the senior equestrian team with a HK$24 million commitment until December, 2016.
The support for the Jets is separate to that given to the senior squad. The Jockey Club did not divulge the sponsorship amount but said all members would receive professional training as well as their costs for taking part in overseas competition for the next 12 months.