Rio Olympics blow for Hong Kong cycling as injured Meng Zhaojuan’s ranking plummets

Hong Kong were hoping to send a six-member squad – their biggest ever – to the Games but now that looks unlikely

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 February, 2016, 6:59pm
UPDATED : Friday, 19 February, 2016, 12:32am

Hong Kong’s hopes of sending their largest-ever squad to the Olympic Games have been dashed after injured women’s road racer Meng Zhaojuan dropped out of the top 100 in the latest qualification rankings.

The Hong Kong Cycling Association had planned to send six cyclists, including Meng, to Rio in August – one more than the five-member squad they fielded at the London Olympics four years ago.

Meng, however, was forced to miss two major qualifying events – the Asian Championships in January and the Ladies Tour of Doha this month after hitting a ditch and falling heavily in Oshima, Japan during practice leading up to the Asian event.

At least we hope to keep the same number of riders we sent to the London Olympics and strive for honours for Hong Kong
Leung Hung-tak, HKCA chairman

As a result, her ranking dropped from 82nd to 262. To qualify for the road race in Rio, Meng needed two ranking scenarios – she had to stay inside the top 100 in the individual rankings or the Hong Kong women’s team must be in the top 22 of nation rankings.

The Hong Kong team are currently ranked 38th.

The 26-year-old rider is still recovering from the head injury she suffered in Japan and is unlikely to ride again before the qualification deadline in May.

“The hope of sending six riders to Rio seems to be impossible now,” said HKCA chairman Leung Hung-tak. “But at least we hope to keep the same number of riders we sent to the London Olympics and strive for honours for Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong have three riders chasing qualification in the track events and with only one final round left.

They are all almost certain to make it to the Rio starting line.

The riders are London bronze medallist Sarah Lee Wai-sze in the sprinting events and Leung Chun-wing and Diao Xiaojuan in the men’s and women’s omnium respectively.

The 2016 World Championships in London early next month will be the last chance for riders to catch the train to Rio.

So far, Hong Kong have booked one Olympic berth in the men’s road race – to be represented by Cheung King-lok – the reigning Asian champion.

Chan Chun-hing, meanwhile, has a good chance of qualifying for Rio in the men’s mountain bike (cross country) event following his bronze medal finish at the 2015 Asian Championships.

Cycling offers Hong Kong a chance of an Olympic medal after Lee’s efforts four years ago in the London competition.

Hong Kong have won just three medals in their Olympic history, including Lee Lai-shan’s windsurfing gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.