Hong Kong will send three junior shuttlers for the first time to top European badminton tournaments. Ling Yuen-ting, Koon Wai-chee and Jie Elyni will be heading for competitions in the Netherlands and Germany later this month. The territory could have been represented by a stronger squad but top male junior Liu Kwok-wah and Wong Hoi-yiu failed to make the trip as they are preparing for school exams. Five senior players will depart for the Swiss and Poland Opens in mid-March. They are Tam Kai-chuen, Chow Kin-man, Ma Che-kong, Ng Ching and Tung Chau-man. All members are scholarship athletes of the Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI) and are specially trained under the Vita Distilled Water Badminton Development Scheme. Chan Chi-choi, head badminton coach of the HKSI, explained that the decision to attend the European tour came after careful consideration and weighing up of all the pros and cons. 'European competitions are always of a high standard and we won't risk sending players there unless those players have reached a certain standard,' he said. 'I'm happy to see that some players had made great progress in 1996 and are now as competitive as some of the world's leading players. 'That's why they are given the opportunity to test their skills in Europe,' said Chan. Tam, who currently ranks 24th in the world, was thrilled at the chance of competing in Europe. He said he hoped to gain international exposure playing against top-class badminton players from China, Indonesia and South Korea. Coach Chan also expects to see the players improve their world rankings after the European tour. He added that 1997 would be an important year for the young talents. 'They will be given more opportunities to play and will have to play players of different levels in order to polish their skills,' he said. Hong Kong shuttlers showed progress in 1996 despite the retirement of some experienced players like Chan Oi-ni, coach Chan told Young Post.