Passport rule may see four riders out of team for Incheon
Mainland women - Hong Kong's best hopes for a medal - are latest athletes to face prospect of missing Asian Games over Olympic Council of Asia's new eligibility policy
Cycling looks to be the latest Hong Kong sport to fall victim to the Asian Games' new passport policy, with four female riders not meeting the requirement.
Under new rules adopted by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), athletes must possess a Hong Kong passport before they can compete in Incheon, South Korea, this September. Previously, three years' residency was sufficient, as long as athletes were of Asian origin. The policy has also hit rugby and cricket.
Top riders including Diao Xiaojuan, Meng Zhaojuan, Yang Qianyu and Pang Yao, who were expected to don Hong Kong colours in Incheon, are mainland-born, without HKSAR passports.
Mainlanders must live in Hong Kong for seven years to become eligible for a passport.
"These former mainlanders are key members of our women's squad and, if they cannot take part in the Asian Games, it will definitely jeopardise our medal hopes," said Hong Kong Cycling Association chairman Leung Hung-tak.
"We know the rules have been tightened, but we also hope the authorities can consider their situation - as they all make Hong Kong their permanent home.
"Both Diao and Meng represented Hong Kong at the last Asian Games in Guangzhou and if they are rejected for Incheon, they will be very disappointed."
Diao, originally from Fujian province, arrived in Hong Kong in 2007. She took part in the women's points race in Guangzhou and was robbed of gold after an unlucky crash.
She won her first World Cup gold medal for Hong Kong in January after winning the scratch race in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Meng partners Sarah Lee Wai-sze in the women's team sprint and her recent form has been impressive, with a victory in the Tour of Thailand last month. She was then crowned the criterium race champion in the All China Road Race Series in Guangdong.
The four mainlanders are members of the women's pursuit team for Incheon, and if they were turned down by the organisers, Hong Kong would not to be able to form a team. Diao also has a good chance in the omnium, while Meng is a contender in the sprint events.
Hong Kong Olympic Committee officials said they were trying to find a solution. "We understand the situation and are working with the OCA to resolve the problem," said Pang Chung, honorary secretary of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee, who will meet OCA officials in Myanmar next week.
"We want to help Hong Kong athletes win as many medals as possible and do not want to see their efforts be in vain."
The cycling team is in Kunming for altitude training before heading to Astana for the Asian Championships in the Kazakhstan capital this month. The Asian Championships will be their last major build-up for the Incheon Games.
Cycling was the biggest winner for Hong Kong at the last Asian Games, grabbing four gold medals - half of the total golds the delegation won. They also captured four silver and one bronze.