Asian Games
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HK's years of training finally facing medal test

Asian Games

THE culmination to four years of hard trainitgh built-up expectations and million-dollar development programmes unfolds for Hong Kong when the 12th Asian Games starts today in Hiroshima, Japan.

Since the Beijing Games in 1990, the territory's athletes have undergone an unprecedented regimen of training and commitment to the Asian Games cause.

And it has now come down to 118 athletes to produce the goods that the territory's sports leaders hope will come from the last four years of planning.

Once again, Hong Kong will largely be relying on the athletes that brought two silvers and five bronze medals in Beijing to repeat their success in Beijing.

Windsurfer Lee lai-shan, silver medallist in Beijing, has improved tremendously over the last four years, and will not be satisfied with anything but gold.

The territory's wushu experts, who netted a silver and two bronzes in Beijing, are also eyeing medals, although they will be without their best hope, Li Fai, who pulled out of the squad after becoming pregnant.

But Leung Yat-ho, silver medallist in Beijing, is still in the squad, aiming to go one better and strike gold.

Judo, fencing and table tennis are also capable of repeating their bronze medal performances in Beijing.

However, the potential for medal success is not restricted to those sports.

Female rower Ho Kim-fai, silver medallist at last year's East Asian Games, has emerged as one of the leading single scullers in the region.

Having being forced to compete in heavyweight division because there is no lightweight competition in Hiroshima, Ho still has a good chance of a silver medal despite strong competition from China and Japan.

The return of tenpin bowling to the Asian Games has also bolstered Hong Kong's medal chances.

Tenpin bowling provided Hong Kong with their first Asian Games gold medal when Cat Che struck gold at the 1986 Games in Seoul.

The sport was not included in the 1990 Beijing Games programme, but Che has remained competitive in those eight years.

She has plenty of support in the other five women and six males that make up the Hong Kong tenpin bowling squad vying for medals.

Shooting has been disappointing for Hong Kong over the last four years, but Gilbert U King-hung, who has won bronze medals at both the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, can still hit the bulls' eye in the big occasion.

Chan Sau-ying is aiming to become the first track and field athlete to win a medal for Hong Kong at the Asian Games.

Chan came close to a bronze in Beijing when she finished fourth in the 100-metre hurdles.

She also suffered the disappointment of knocking over the penultimate hurdle at August's Commonwealth Games.

And the US-based Chan will be determined to prove in Hiroshima that she will not crack under the pressure of being in the international spotlight.

But his main goal will be to see as many personal best times set as possible.

The territory's soccer team face an uphill battle to reach the medal stages after losing 4-3 to Malaysia in their opening group match.

They face Thailand, Uzbekhistan and Saudi Arabia in their remaining matches, needing to finish in the top two of Group B to advance to the quarter-finals.

Hong Kong are also competing in karatedo, equestrianism, cycling, badminton, gymnastics and canoeing.

Of these, the cycling team of Hung Chung-yam, Hui Chak-bor, Wong Kam-po and Chan Lung have the potential to win a bronze medal in the men's team time trial.