Hayley's Olympic dreams sunk

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2012, 12:00am


Hayley Chan Hei-man's Olympic dreams were shattered after the windsurfer was involved in a training accident that left her with three broken ribs in hospital in England.

Chan, 21 (pictured), who sacrificed a year from Hong Kong University in pursuit of her dream, collided with a 49er racing dinghy travelling at full speed. Hong Kong coach Rene Appel, who was in a motor boat watching Chan train at the Portland and Weymouth Olympic sailing venue, rescued her from the water.

He described her injuries as 'serious' and that she was in a stable condition and recovering well in hospital.

'It will impact on our Olympic preparations but it is too soon to say by how much at this stage' said Appel. 'Hayley is a real fighter, and she is already applying the same focus and determination to recovery as she does to training.'

Hayley Chan's distraught mother rushed to London to be with her daughter, who is in the Dorset County Hospital.

The Hong Kong Sports Institute made arrangements to fly Chan's family to London. 'Hayley is very collected. We will assess her injury and see how things are.' Appel said.

With the Olympics just 52 days away, the chances of her recovering are slim. This could see Vicky Chan Wai-kei, who represented Hong Kong at the Beijing Olympics four years ago, getting the nod.

A top Hong Kong windsurfing official confirmed Hayley Chan's chances of recovering in time for the Olympics looked remote.

'She has been hospitalised with three broken ribs. It is most likely she will be out of the Olympics. It is very unfortunate for her, especially as it is her first Olympics. It is also a huge blow for Hong Kong,' said Cowen Chiu But-kau, president of the Hong Kong Windsurfing Association.

'We are not in the process of looking for a replacement for her. It is too early for that. Things will become clearer soon,' he added. Trisha Leahy, chief executive of the Hong Kong Sports Institute where Hayley Chan is an elite athlete, said they were closely monitoring the situation. 'She sustained injuries but is making good progress in her recovery. All efforts to assist her are being made to ensure she has access to the best care,' Leahy said.

Dennis Chau Wai-Keung, the association's executive director, said any decision to replace Chan would have to be endorsed by the Hong Kong Olympic Committee.

'We can nominate an athlete but the final decision will depend on the SFOC (Hong Kong Olympic Committee) who will assess the ability and competitiveness of the athlete before giving the green light,' Chau said.

Hayley Chan, who won a silver medal at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, edged out Vicky Chan in the race to win the one spot available for Hong Kong in the women's event.

After a series of races including the RSX world championships in Cadiz, Spain and the European Open Championships in Portugal, Hayley Chan emerged in front of her rival on a points system to win the solitary berth in March. Andy Leung Ho-chun is representing Hong Kong in the men's event.

Soon after she was confirmed as Hong Kong's female representative, Hayley Chan thanked HKU for giving her the opportunity to realise her dream. The Bachelor of Arts student said: 'I am thankful to the University of Hong Kong for giving me the flexibility in my studies and support to fully prepare for the selections and the Olympics.'

The accident could also rob Chan of the last chance to take part at the Olympics. Last month the International Sailing Federation agreed in principle that windsurfing will be replaced by kiteboarding at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Hong Kong's only Olympic gold medal came in windsurfing, through Lee Lai-shan at the 1996 Atlanta Games.