‘We are Hong Kong’ – whether it’s Commonwealth Games or China National Games, says Auckland 1990 gold medallist Chan Chi-choi
Hong Kong’s last gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games says pride at representing the city overrides politics
Don’t try to put a political tag on us – the honour is the same whether it is the Commonwealth Games or the China National Games, said Chan Chi-choi who won Hong Kong’s last gold medal as a British colony at the 1990 Games in Auckland.
With the 2018 Commonwealth Games kicking off on the Gold Coast, Australia on Wednesday, Hong Kong’s participation in the Games is already a distant memory. It was at the 1994 Games in Victoria, Canada where Hong Kong bid farewell and since the handover in 1997 the city’s athletes have instead competed in the China National Games.
“To most of the athletes, we are doing the same for any major games, having the best preparation we can and striving for honour for Hong Kong,” said Chan, who with his partner, Amy Chan Lim-chee, won the mixed doubles gold for Hong Kong in Auckland.
It was also the last of the five gold medals Hong Kong have ever won at the Games as a former British colony since their debut in 1934. Hong Kong won their first gold in the men’s fours in lawn bowl at the 1970 Commonwealth Games before taking two more bowls medals (men’s fours and doubles) eight years later.
“Indeed, the chance of competing in major games back in those days were very limited and therefore we treasured every opportunity. Whether it was the Commonwealth Games or the National Games, we are representing Hong Kong and never thought about issues such as whether we were from the British colony or a special administrative region as we walk on to the court.”
Chan also won a bronze medal in the mixed team event in Auckland, but four years later in Victoria, he had already retired as a player and became a coach. Chan, however, was the flag-bearer for the Hong Kong delegation for the opening ceremony because of the gold he had won four years earlier.
“I was told to lower the Hong Kong flag when passing in front of the Queen at the opening ceremony as we didn’t want to be seen pointing the flag at her,” he said. “But nonetheless, it was one of the glorious moments of my sporting career which I still treasure.”
Chan led the badminton team as their head coach to the 1997 Shanghai National Games, just two months after the handover.
“Badminton is always heavily contested among different teams in the Commonwealth and when I won the gold in Auckland, I had to fend off tough opponents from England and Malaysia before standing on top of the podium,” said Chan.
“But the standard of Chinese badminton is even higher as many of the competitors are of world level and every representative wants to win because the results would affect the resources their provinces could obtain in the next four years.”
At the 2005 National Games in Nanjing, Hong Kong women’s singles Wang Chen abandoned her bronze medal match against Zhu Lin, of Shanghai, after playing the first few points. Wang, the Asian champion of the same year, said she did it in protest of her defeat in the previous round in the semi-finals after a number of dubious calls against her.
In Gold Coast, Malaysia will be sending their ace player Lee Chong Wei as they face tough battles from India, England, Scotland and Singapore in badminton.
“The Games atmosphere is different from the individual world tour as you are playing for your national team,” said Chan, who left the Institute in 2010 for good after spending 30 years in the sport. “I can still feel the excitement despite leaving the sport for almost 10 years. Badminton is always competitive in the Commonwealth Games and good luck to them.”