On the same team? Hong Kong and mainland athletes to join forces at China National Games
Hong Kong swimmers likely targets for mainland provinces wanting to improve medal chances after radical policy changes by administrators
A radical shift in policy by mainland sports administrators could see Hong Kong and mainland athletes combine for the first time to represent one province at the forthcoming National Games in Tianjin, a top official said.
While Hong Kong and China compete under separate entities in the Olympics and all other regional games, this would still be a groundbreaking move by the State General Sports Administration of China.
Hong Kong’s swimmers are the target of provinces seeking world-class competitors for the Games from August 27 to September 8, according to Ronnie Wong Man-chiu, president of the Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association.
“The General Sports Administration will carry out changes at the National Games after the arrival of a new director and changes in the management positions of many individual sports administration centres after the Rio Olympics,” said Wong.
“One of these new measures will be allowing provinces to form joint teams in sports such as swimming, tennis, table tennis and badminton so that some of the weaker provinces can have a better chance of winning medals at the Tianjin games.
“We are now having discussions with some provinces and our women’s relay team will have the best chance of forming a joint team,” said Wong, who is also the honorary secretary of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee.
Hong Kong has never won a swimming medal at the National Games since making its debut at the 1997 edition in Shanghai as Chinese swimmers are of the highest standard.
But Hong Kong’s female swimmers qualified for the 4x100 metre medley relay at last year’s Olympic Games where they finished 14th. Only the best 16 teams in the world were allowed to compete in Rio.
Although leading swimmer Siobhan Haughey has opted out of the National Games to focus on the World Championships and the World University Games this summer, other top swimmers such as Stephanie Au Hoi-shun, Yvette Kong Man-yi, Sze Hang-yu and Claudia Lau Yin-yan will be on the radar of many provinces.
Au, who has just returned from the United States after taking part in the 2017 Pro Series Santa Clara leg along with Haughey, Kong and Sze, applauded the new move.
“The new measure can increase our medal hopes at the National Games if we can join the very high standard of Chinese swimmers to form a relay team,” she said.
Haughey, who is studying at Michigan University, achieved the best result among the Hong Kong swimmers in Santa Clara with a silver medal in the 200m individual medley.
The National Games, China’s biggest multi-sport competition held every four years, will take place in the northern city from August 27 to September 8.