HK women on Oz tour

ASIAN Games preparation for the Hong Kong women's table tennis team heats up with a whirlwind training and exhibition tour to Australia, where they will visit three cities in 12 days.

Commonwealth champion Chai Po-wa, Chan Tan-lui, Cheng To and Chan Suk-yuen carry Hong Kong's table tennis medal hopes in Hiroshima as they won two bronzes at the last Asia Games in Beijing.

The quartet, led by head national coach David Cheng Chung-yin, left for Melbourne yesterday on the Australian tour in which they will also be visiting Sydney and Brisbane.

Coach Cheng said: ''The girls have been putting in three hours of practice everyday and this tour is to freshen them up before they go into a series of tournaments leading up to the Asian Games.'' The team face a heavy tournament schedule next month, having been entered in three major events - the China Open, Japan Open and South Korean Open - over a 17-day period.

Hong Kong's build-up for the Asian Games intensifies in July with the Beijing and Shandong provincial teams invited to train with them in the territory.

They will spend the whole of August in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan to train with the Taiwan national team.

''This stint to Taiwan is an experiment for us because we've never gone there for training, but it will give us a chance to practice with fresh partners instead of the usual mainland opposition,'' said Cheng.