43-year-old Kate Rutherford leads bid for return of triathlon to Hong Kong Sports Institute
A medal at the Asian Championships in Hiroshima will secure elite status at the training centre
A medal for Kate Rutherford, a 43-year-old mother of two, at the Asian Championships in Hiroshima this weekend will see Hong Kong’s triathlon contingent recapture elite status and a return to the Sports Institute.
Having spent three decades at the training centre in Fo Tan, the sport was axed from the elite ranks last year after failing to meet the requirements. Now they have the chance of a comeback.
If Hong Kong can secure a medal in one of the three senior events – elite men, elite women or the mixed team relay, triathlon will be reinstated as an elite programme from April 1 next year when the new support cycle begins.
Rutherford, who arrived in Hong Kong 13 years ago as a housewife, was recruited to the Hong Kong team last month with the women’s team short of talent after the departure from the institute.
Only two elite women will represent Hong Kong in the Asian Championships – Rutherford and Hilda Choi Yan-yin.
“Our best hope is the mixed team relay ,” said Rutherford from Hiroshima. “There will be quite a bit of pressure. Anything can happen in this event even though we will certainly face some very tough opponents such as Japan, China and South Korea.”
The mixed team relay is a newly introduced event, comprising two men and two women. Each athlete completes a “super sprint” of swimming, biking and running, before tagging off to their next teammate. It’s non-stop action from the beginning, and the pace is relentless.
Hong Kong came fourth in the event when it was first introduced at the Incheon Asian Games where Choi was one of the team members. Had they finished in the top three, triathlon would have been able to stay at the institute.
Rutherford, who has since represented Hong Kong in two events, is happy with her progress. She came second in the Le Morne sprint triathlon African Cup and won a bronze medal in the Subic Bay Asian Cup series last week.
“It was a decent result in the Philippines although I didn’t have my best race,” she said. “Racing both Mauritius and Subic has given me some great experience at this level. It’s all still a learning curve, learning race tactics and getting used to the race intensity.”
The Asian event will kick off with the junior men on Friday and then the junior women, elite men and elite women the following day. The mixed team relay will take place on Sunday.