Crunch time for Hong Kong shuttlers in fight for places at Rio Games
Asian Championships in Wuhan the last chance to qualify for badminton at the Olympics
Hong Kong has the chance to send a record seven shuttlers to the Rio Olympics as they compete in their last qualification campaign – at the Asian Championships in Wuhan from Wednesday.
This represents the best opportunity to send such a large squad – including men’s and women’s singles, mixed doubles and women’s doubles – since badminton was introduced at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
The previous biggest contingent was five in Athens in 2004, equalling the squad size that went to the 1992 Games.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed,” said coach Tim He Yiming. “The competition is intense as every shuttler wants to go. Our players have been working so hard over the past 12 months and it’s time for their efforts to pay off.”
Olympic qualification began last May with players competing for a limited number of berths in all five disciplines.
The Wuhan tournament will close the competition for Asian players while the European Championships, the Oceania Championships and Pan American Championships are being held at the same time, offering players from the various regions their last chance to qualify.
Promising Angus Ng Ka-long, ranked 12th in the world, should have little problem making it in the men’s singles following some fine performances in recent months.
However, Hu Yun and Wei Nan will need to be at their best in Wuhan if one of them is to grab a second singles berth. Ng faces an easy outing against a qualifier from Jordan in the first round but both Hu and Wei will be stretched against Sho Sasaki of Japan and Zulfadli Zulkiffli of Malaysia.
World number one Chen Long and fellow mainlander Lin Dan – the world number two – as well as world number three Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia will all take to the court.
Cheung Ngan-yi, who is competing with Yip Pui-yin for the only women’s singles berth Hong Kong can claim, must beat China’s Wang Shixian, the third seed, in the first round while Yip faces a much easier match against Hsu Ya-ching of Taiwan.