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Annie Au

Impossible dream becomes reality as Hong Kong defeat Pakistan to become Asian squash champions for the first time

Max Lee leads team to glory over once-mighty Pakistan to complete double gold for the Hong Kong team who also lift the women’s title in Cheongju

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 March, 2018, 7:18pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 March, 2018, 10:41pm

An “impossible” dream became a reality for Hong Kong in Cheongju, South Korea on Sunday.

Hong Kong became Asian men’s team squash champions for the first time, ending a 32-year wait to mark an historical day for the city who celebrated double gold after also lifting the Asian women’s team title.

“This is a massive achievement. It proved that our bronze medal at the World Championships last year was no fluke,” said Hong Kong number one Max Lee Ho-yin after they defeated 15-time champions Pakistan on Sunday.

“We hope to capitalise on this success and continue to improve, with the Asian Games this summer as our next big target. This result is a huge confidence booster as we prepare for the Indonesia campaign. We did it in South Korea and now we feel we can do it again in Jakarta.”

Hong Kong first took part in the biennial Asian team championships in 1986 and have come agonisingly close to winning the men’s title on a number of occasions, including last year when they finished runners-up behind the once-mighty Pakistan team.

Buoyed by their third place finish at last year’s Worlds, Hong Kong, the number one seeds, knew they had the know-how and ability to overcome the Pakistanis, who entered the 15th edition of the tournament as the defending champions.

Lee and compatriot Leo Au Chun-ming both defeated their opponents in straight games, leaving the third member of the team, Yip Tsz-fung, the luxury of not having to play the dead rubber in the best-of-three tie.

Lee laid the foundation by defeating Farhan Zaman 3-0 (11-9, 11-9, 11-7) in the opening rubber, while Au dropped a game against Tayyab Aslam but gradually wore down his opponent as the Hong Kong number two prevailed 3-1 (11-6, 8-11, 11-0, 11-7) to complete the landmark win.

Hong Kong’s women’s team were only offered token resistance as they thrashed home team South Korea 2-0 in the final to lift their fourth title.

The Koreans had been cheered by their fans the previous day after they upset second seeds Japan to make their first appearance in the final, but the home fans were left in stunned silence after Hong Kong completed their demolition job against the hosts.

Hong Kong stalwarts Annie Au Wing-chi and Joey Chan Ho-ling, ranked 11th and 19th in the world respectively, proved too strong for their opponents to complete a fine campaign in South Korea.

Au won her opening tie against Ahn Eun-tschan with a quick-fire 11-4, 11-5, 11-5 victory, while Chan came back from one game down to beat Lee Ji-hyun 8-11, 11-0, 11-2, 11-7. Tong Tsz-wing was also spared from playing the dead rubber.