Former champ back on the road on the road

FORMER Asian junior champion Wong Kam-po came within a whisker of winning the territory's first ever individual cycling medal at the Asian Games with a fourth-placed finish in Hiroshima.

Kam-po set the early pace in the 170 km individual road race and just could not hang on for a medal, finishing four seconds behind bronze winner Tang Xuehong of China.

It was a tremendous effort for 21-year-old Kam-po, a member of the disgraced Hong Kong cycling squad who were pulled out of the 1992 Olympic Games following a series of internal squabbles while training in France.

Kam-po was handed a one-year ban by the Hong Kong Cycling Association for 'deserting' the team and going to Canada to visit his sister when the conflicts broke out.

He was disillusioned by the ban and quit the sport. He only returned to the saddle this year when he was approached by Andy Choi Yiu-chung who took charge of the national team.

'It was hard work getting back my competitive edge because I've stopped cycling for so long. But it was well worth the effort and I am very encouraged by this result.' I hope to win a medal at the 1998 Asian Games,' he said.

Kam-po led for the first 120 km and the strain of setting the pace without any support took its toll as he could only sit back and watch when Kazakhstan's Andrei Kivilev pulled away.

Kivilev went on to win in 4:31:53 with his teammate Alexandre Vinokkourov finishing just behind to make it a one-two for Kazakhstan. China's Tang took the bronze in 4:32:11 with Kam-po only four seconds away.