Hong Kong faces an anxious wait to find out if it will have a sole Olympian competing at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang
Officials are confident that 16-year-old Arabella Ng’s place in South Korea will be ratified within days
Canada is preparing a mighty force of 221 competitors and North Korea will be represented after eleventh hour diplomatic talks with its neighbouring hosts, but Hong Kong’s 2018 Winter Olympics preparations have garnered considerably fewer headlines.
The city is now braced to discover for certain in the coming days whether it will have its own Olympian competing at the upcoming Games in South Korea.
City ski officials are optimistic that it is just a matter of awaiting a final confirmation that teenager Arabella Ng will compete in Alpine skiing in Pyeongchang, becoming Hong Kong’s sixth Winter Olympian.
Samson Siu, secretary general of the Ski Association of Hong Kong, was confident that the city will have its sole representative confirmed for Korea ahead of the January 22 deadline, and says preparations can then be put in place for Ng’s return to Hong Kong from America ahead of the Opening Ceremony on February 9.
“We are working with the IOC and the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong to confirm that Arabella has qualified,” Siu said. “Usually the whole thing has to be done by January 22 and we’re working on it.”
Hong Kong-born Ng, who studies and competes in the United States, is expected to qualify via the IOC’s “B standard” or “basic quota” which entitles each national Olympic committee to put forward a single participant provided they have acquired the requisite 140 FIS (International Ski Federation) points.
“She has been racing a lot recently,” Siu said. “Actually, she is also hoping to qualify for the giant slalom event if she can get enough points. It’s down to the FIS, but it should be sorted in a couple of days.”
Such is the last-minute nature of her qualification, equipment and uniforms are yet to be arranged for the Hong Kong delegation, and Ng will spend just 48 hours in Hong Kong before jetting off to South Korea.
“We’re currently preparing for the flag raising ceremony in early February,” Siu said. “Arabella returns to Hong Kong on February 6, there will be a press conference on February 7, and she will go to Korea on February 8.”
Ng will become the first Hongkonger to compete in Olympic Alpine skiing should she make it to South Korea and while her qualification may have come as a slight surprise for Hong Kong’s skiing body, it represents progress after a concerted effort by the authorities to boost the sport’s profile.
“We’ve been encouraging students from Hong Kong to compete all over the world,” Siu said. “Our interschool programme has been successful recently. She’s been with us for over a year.
“Arabella and her family are very excited about her competing at the Winter Olympics and it will be good experience for her.
“By the next [Olympics] she’ll be much better and our aim is to send a bigger team to the Winter Games in Beijing in four years,” Siu added.
Slalom and giant slalom are considered two of the most difficult disciplines in the Alpine ski category. Described as a “dance on snow”, competitors are timed navigating a series of gates through a downhill run.
Youngster Ng could find herself up against the likes of USA’s Mikaela Shiffrin, a three-time world champion and the defending Olympic champion. The 22-year-old is the reigning world champion and is considered a hot favourite to claim a second Olympic slalom gold in Pyeongchang.
If Ng successfully qualifies, Hong Kong will be one of 20 nations with a single representative at the Pyeongchang Games alongside Dominica, Kenya and Kosovo.