I never expected to win World Cup Series: injured Hayley Chan eyes Asian glory for Hong Kong after Japan triumph
The 26-year-old surprises herself by overcoming a hip problem to claim victory in Gamagori, with the Hong Kong and Asian championships around the corner
Hayley Chan went into last week’s World Cup Series opener in Gamagori, Japan unsure if she could compete because of a hip injury. She ended up winning the event by upsetting the local favourite in the women’s RS:X class and boosting her confidence ahead of the Asian Games in Indonesia next year.
The Hong Kong athlete, gold medallist at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, won two of the six races in southeast Japan and also notched a second placed finish to beat Japanese rival Fujiko Onishi, with China’s Huang Xianting in third.
“I wasn’t expecting to win because I had a hip injury the day I arrived in Gamagori and I didn’t think I would compete,” said the 26-year-old, who claimed silver at the 2010 Asian Games.
“Also, this wasn’t really one of the targets for myself or the team but having won the event, it has really boosted my confidence.
“I’m looking forward to more races and also the Asian Games next year, which will be tough,” said Chan, who is the favourite to represent Hong Kong in Indonesia.
Hong Kong sailors performed admirably in the regatta, with Ngai Wai-yan finishing fourth and Sonio Lo ninth.
Next up for Chan is the Haitong International 2017 Hong Kong Open Windsurfing Championship, from November 1-5 at Stanley Main Beach before she heads off to Penghu in Taiwan for the Asian Championships from November 14-21.
“I’m excited to be sailing in Hong Kong,” said Chan. “It’s not often we get to train or compete in Hong Kong that much because we are away so often so I’m looking forward to it.”
She is also lined up to compete in the last two World Cup Series events in Miami, Florida in January and in Hyeres, France in April.
Her coach Chan King-yin said the relatively small fleet of 15 sailors helped Chan, who battled through the pain barrier to claim victory.
“We didn’t expect her to win because of the injury but she took it day by day and was able to sail,” said the coach. “She is good competing in small fleets but when it comes to big fleets and there are a lot of competitors, she sometimes feels the pressure and makes mistakes.
“But she did really well and she has a great chance of representing Hong Kong at the Asian Games.”
Coach Chan said his athlete is also looking ahead to the Tokyo Olympics, after missing out on representing Hong Kong at the 2016 Rio Games. Lo sailed for Hong Kong in Brazil and finished 17th. Selection events for the Tokyo Games start in 2019 with the world championships.
“It’s still early to talk about the Olympic now,” said the coach. “We will choose one sailor depending on performances in the world championships in 2019 and two sailing world cups and whoever has the highest ranking will go to the Olympics.
“Definitely Hayley will be one of the favourites but at the moment, we have other targets.”
Windsurfing gave Hong Kong their first Olympic medal of any colour when Lee Lai-shan won gold in the mistral event at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, Georgia.
Hong Kong have since been consistently competitive in Asia and the world, with the likes of Hayley Chan among the dominant female sailors.