Hong Kong riders’ ambitions still burn bright as Rio Games dream is fading
Meng Zhaojuan remains hoppeful of Bauhinia cyclists’ chances of qualifying for 2016 Olympics with final leg of World Cup series starting today at Tseung Kwan O velodrome
Meng Zhaojuan’s Olympic dream may be drifting away from her, but the cyclist is not planning to give up trying to qualify, and that means she will be giving her all as she leads the Hong Kong pursuit team in the UCI World Cup event today.
The third and final round of the world series takes place over the next three days in the state-of-the-art Tseung Kwan O velodrome, and also represents the seventh round of the Olympic qualification for Rio.
“The situation is not very comforting at the moment, but we will still put up our best effort, especially as this is the first time we have a truly world-class competition in Hong Kong,” said Meng.
“Of course, there are many advantages to racing in front of a home crowd and we have been quite stable in terms of performance over the last couple of rounds, but we won’t be expecting anything to be easy. Every team wants to go the Rio Olympics and there are only limited slots.”
Team member Leung Bo-yee hopes they can repeat the form they produced in finishing seventh in the World Cup round in Cali, Colombia, a year ago.
“We finished seventh in that round with our best record so far and, hopefully, we can reproduce this at our home ground,” said Leung.
“The team has been making good progress, but our opponents are doing the same. We need a good result in Hong Kong if we want to keep alive our qualification hopes.”
Hong Kong beat New Zealand in the seventh-place play-off in Cali with a time of four minutes and 32.293 seconds. The result was a second faster than in the other four play-offs, only behind champions Australia who won the gold medal in 4:31.527.
The team, also comprising Pang Yao and Yang Qianyu, are currently 13th in the rankings, but only the top nine can qualify for Rio. There are two qualifying rounds left after Hong Kong, with the Asian championships in Japan next week and the world championships in London in March.
Coach Shen Jinkang admitted the team faced a daunting task to make the Rio Games.
“They are among many quality teams in the world and it is not easy for our girls as we don’t have a long tradition in the event,” said the coach. “We need to produce some very good results in the last three rounds to qualify for Rio.”
The coach has high hopes for Cheung King-lok, who will take part in both the men’s scratch and points race on the opening day of the three-day event.
“Cheung has been training hard in the road race in preparation for next week’s Asian championships and his form is quite impressive,” said the coach.
The 24-year-old was the points race champion at the World Cup leg in Cali in October, joining Wong Kam-po, Jaime Wong Wan-yiu, Sarah Lee Wai-sze, Kwok Ho-ting, Choi Ki-ho and Diao Xiaojuan, who have all previously won gold for Hong Kong in the World Cup. Cheung also snatched a bronze medal in the scratch race at the 2014 world championships.