Tougher task in store for HK's Ho

HONG Kong's only gold medal winner at the East Asian Games in Shanghai last May, Ho Kim-fai, heads for Europe tonight looking to move up in the world.

Ho, who won the women's lightweight single sculls gold in the East Asian Games, will be the territory's sole representative in the World Rowing Championships, which take place in Roudnice, near Prague, in the Czech Republic from August 30 to September 6.

Ho finished 10th in the 1992 World Championships in Montreal, Canada, and has been given a top eight target by her coach, Chris Perry.

But both rower and coach know it will not be easy to improve on last year's 10th-place finish, despite the confidence gained from their Shanghai success.

Perry said: ''Fai faces a difficult task because a number of top lightweights who chose to race in the heavyweight class for the Barcelona Olympics will revert to lightweight this year.

''There was no lightweight category in the Olympics last summer so several lightweights moved up to heavyweight. This will make the competition much tougher at this year's World Championships.'' Ho, however, is returning to top form after a virus disrupted her training schedule last month.

''Over the last two weeks her performances have returned to their normal level and physiological tests show she is approaching peak condition again.

''The East Asian Games was a really tough event with two exhausting races. Once all the excitement and euphoria had died down we realised that Fai was very tired.

''This made her vulnerable to catching infection and made it difficult to get back into intensive training.

''In the Worlds the top six qualify for the final and it would be a significant achievement for her to do that. A top eight finish and a place in the B final would be more realistic,'' added Perry.

Ho, a 30-year-old full-time athlete based at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, is also using the World Championships as a build-up to the Asian Championships in Seoul in October.

In the Asian event, Ho will row singles and lightweight doubles with Malina Ngai Man-lin.

For the Asian Championships, Ho has been invited to try a French-designed prototype boat which has just gone on the market in Asia.

''It is ultra hi-tech design and is made from aircraft materials which are very light and stiff but also very rigid,'' said Perry.

''She has a good incentive to do well, though, because the company have said if she wins the gold medal she can keep the boat - and you're looking at around $90,000.''