I’ll turn to the United States if Hong Kong keeps crushing my dreams, says outraged powerlifter Daniella Means

The 28-year-old holds the Asian title but the governing body says she can’t compete on the world stage because it lacks the resources

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 March, 2018, 8:03am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 March, 2018, 8:02am

Asian powerlifting champion Daniella Means has had her hopes of representing Hong Kong on the world stage crushed by a “backwards” organisation that has left her considering leaving for the United States.

On winning her category at the Asian Classic Powerlifting Championships in India three months ago, the Hong Kong Weightlifting and Powerlifting Association told the 28-year-old she could compete at the World Classic Powerlifting Championships in June, a decision Means said it had now reneged on.

“What this brings to light is just how backwards and bureaucratic it is,” said Means, who has also represented Hong Kong at rugby sevens. “It really angers me and I have come to the point where I have possibly taken powerlifting as far as I can go in Hong Kong.

“I’m a Hong Kong passport holder, born and raised in Hong Kong, so representing my country really does mean a lot to me and I would love that country to continue to be Hong Kong.

“The only choice this leaves me with is to potentially try to represent the US because I’m also a US passport holder.”

Means, who competes in the under-63kg category and holds a host of Hong Kong records, has started a petition to get the decision overturned and holds out some hope she can successfully plead her case by the April 6 nomination deadline.

She has contacted the International Powerlifting Federation but was told she must have the consent of the HKWPA to compete.

“I asked [the HKWPA] straight after, will I be able to compete at the World Championships, and they said ‘yes, yes, yes, that’s fine, you’ll have to pay yourself but you can compete’,” Means said.

“That was fine by me because I paid for India on my own and you basically get reimbursed depending on how well you do. Since I won gold, I got reimbursed.

“Last month they said to me and another athlete that if we want to compete we would also have to pay for a member of the association to accompany us.

“At the time I was completely outraged, because this is a government-funded federation. Then I went to visit them last week and they told me ‘the executive committee has had a meeting and we have decided due to limited resources we are not going to send anyone to the World Classic Championships’.”

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Asked to respond, a HKWPA spokesperson said it could only do so by Monday.

Means competes in the classic version of powerlifting rather than equipped – where lifters wear equipment to help them – but is a victim of the fact only two classic lifters from Hong Kong want to attend the world championships.

“They told me ‘in order to send you to the World Classic Championships we need a team, we can’t just send two people because we have limited resources and limited manpower’,” said Means, adding that the HKWPA has advised to her to wait for the Asian championships later this year.

“I think because of the structure of how athletics works in Hong Kong, winning a medal means you get more funding.

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“If it’s not possible for me to win a medal, then why bother? They would rather go and compete at these smaller regional competitions and win than allow their athletes to pit themselves against the best.”

Means expects backlash for speaking out, but hopes it will ensure more opportunities for Hong Kong athletes across the board.

“There is a local championship next month that I’m signed up to compete in, but I fully expect them to kick me out,” she said.

“Possibly they think that I’m too outspoken, that I’m too westernised and I don’t have the right attitude. To me, there is no risk for them in letting me compete because I have always paid for myself.

“Since I started making a big fuss about all of this I’ve had numerous athletes reach out to me about the politics behind this and how it doesn’t promote Hong Kong athletes.

“I’ve had people from the dragon boating team, the rowing team, the karate team, body builders. A lot of body builders want to do powerlifting as well because they like being strong and they were told they have to pick between body building and powerlifting and they’ve just gone to body building because in powerlifting they don’t help you, they make it difficult.”