Hong Kong raise alarm over Asian Games old-style cycling track
Officials say Incheon organisers are running events on a 333m outdoor velodrome, but the local team train on a modern 250m facility
Concerns have been raised by Hong Kong's cycling officials after finding out that the city's riders will have to race on an old-fashioned, outdoor track venue at the Asian Games in Incheon this summer.
Cycling is a major source of potential medals for Hong Kong, whose ranks include top contenders such as Sarah Lee Wai-sze, Jamie Wong Wan-yiu, Cheung Kin-lok and Kwok Ho-ting and the venue will play a pivotal role in enabling them to perform to their best.
However, instead of the now more common 250-metre indoor tracks, which Hong Kong riders are familiar with from competing at World Cups or Olympic Games, they will be faced with an outdoor velodrome of 333 metres in length in Incheon.
As hosts, South Korea, one of the major track cycling powers in Asia, will benefit from being able to practise on the track.
"You can't say there is any foul play by the organisers as long as they follow the rules of the international federation," said Hong Kong Cycling Association chairman Leung Hung-tak.
"Both the 250-metre or 333-metre venues are legitimate according to the International Cycling Union, although I would say 333-metre tracks are rarely used for international competitions these days.
"I know the Incheon outdoor venue has been there for a long time and perhaps the organisers want to save money by not building any new facility but by using the existing one."
Leung said the Hong Kong team had to adjust their build-up for the Games because of the venue issue.
"Normally we train in Guangzhou's velodrome, which was built for the 2010 Asian Games, but now we need to travel to Qinhuangdao, in northern China, where they have a similar track," said Leung.
"We want the riders to get used to the outdoor environment, including wind conditions and lighting, so that they can remain competitive."
Hong Kong coach Shen Jinkang, meanwhile, is considering sending a women's sprint team to Incheon to increase the city's medal chances.
Lee has been a dominate force in the individual sprint but it has been difficult to find a suitable partner for her in the team.
Meng Zhaojuan, who also took part in the individual sprint in the Guangzhou Games, in 2010, may be a logical choice, while Diao Xiaojuan, who will represent Hong Kong in the omnium in Incheon, is another option.
"We still have to check out the racing schedules before we make a decision as we need to find out how close these events will be," said the coach.
"The two individual events - sprint and keirin - will still be Lee's first priority."
The Incheon Games will include only the 10 Olympic disciplines, which means Lee will not be able to defend her title in the 500-metre time trial, an event in which she is the Asian record holder.
Hong Kong won a total of four golds, four silvers and one bronze medal in cycling in Guangzhou four years ago.