Syria unrest not a problem for Hong Kong windsurfers in Israel world championships
Hayley Chan aims to cement her place in the Rio Olympics at the second and final round of Games selection
Unrest in Middle East has not stopped windsurfer Hayley Chan Hei-man from trying to seal a second straight appearance in the Olympic Games, with the Hong Kong No 1 due to compete in the RS:X world championships in Israel on Monday.
The regatta, which takes place in Eilat – a resort located at the northern tip of the Red Sea – over five days, is not only one of the last building blocks in preparation for the Rio Games but also the second and final round of Olympic Games selection for the Hong Kong team.
War in nearby Syria threatened to cancel the event but organisers now say it is safe to continue with the competition.
“This is an important race for Hong Kong boardsailors, not only for the opportunity of rubbing shoulders with the best athletes from all over the world but also in deciding who can represent Hong Kong in the Rio Olympics,” said Windsurfing Association executive director Dennis Chau Wai-keung.
“The regatta was once under threat because of the recent unrest in Syria and nearby areas but since the organisers have decided to go ahead, we have to send our boardsailors there.”
Chan has an advantage over rival for the Olympic spot, Sonia Lo Sin-lam, after better results in the first round of selection and is favoured to book her place in Rio.
Hong Kong have secured berths in the Rio Olympics for men and women but now it is a matter of which athlete represent the city.
Chan, who finished in 12th place in the London Games four years ago, and rising star Lo are both keen on showing off their skills in Brazil but results in Eilat will have an impact on who wins out.
Only one boardsailor can represent the team in the Olympic Games.
Chan finished 11th in the World Championships in Oman last year, the first round of selection, while Lo was 23rd.
“Lo needs to make up the deficit against Chan in Eilat in order to stay ahead of her rival for qualification,” said Chau. “The ticket can also be decided if any one of them wins a medal in Eilat or finish in the top 10. Neither way will be easy for Lo.”
The battle for Hong Kong’s men’s RS:X is intense between Andy Leung Ho-tsun and fast-improving Michael Cheng Chun-leung. Cheng finished 27th in Oman while Leung, who was Hong Kong’s representative at the London Games, was 33rd.
China remain hot favourites in both events. The new world number one, Wang Aichen, won a men’s silver in Oman and a bronze at the Miami World Cup in January while compatriot Chen Peina was the women’s champion in Oman.
Chen will face stiff competition from Bryony Shaw, of Britain, the current world number one and champion in Miami as well as 2012 Olympic gold medallist Marina Alabau, of Spain.