Asian Games 2018

2018 Asian Games offers new hope for Hong Kong windsurfer Hayley Chan after Rio 2016 heartbreak

The 27-year-old nearly quit the sport after failing to qualify for the last Olympics but now she is fully focused on Jakarta

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 July, 2018, 7:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 July, 2018, 10:44pm

Windsurfer Hayley Chan Hei-man considered retirement after failing to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, but now the oldest member of the Hong Kong squad has put the disappointment behind her and is setting her sights on a third straight Asian Games medal.

“I thought I would have gone back to school after missing the Rio Olympics,” said the 27-year-old, who captured one silver and one gold at the past two Asian Games respectively. “In fact, I have completed one semester only since being enrolled to the University of Hong Kong in 2010 and it was about time to re-consider my studies. After all, losing the Olympic selection was a big disappointment for my career.

“But then I asked myself if I still had the passion for sport and if I could still improve. If I did, why not? After consulting my coaches, family members and friends, I made up my mind and decided to give the Asian Games another go.”

Chan won a gold in Incheon four years ago, following a silver in mistral class in the 2010 Guangzhou Games but the road to Jakarta was not easy as many up-and-coming boardsailors are catching up quickly.

“I faced a lot of challenges from the younger windsurfers before winning the selection and then needed to overcome the demanding training requirements to stay competitive,” she said. “My coach Chan King-yin has won two Asian Games gold medals during his career and knows how to get the best out of me through some tough training methods.”

At last month’s Asian Sailing Championships in Jakarta, where the Asian Games windsurfing will take place in the same course, Chan finished with a silver medal, just ahead of her major rival Chen Peina, of China, the 2016 Rio Olympics silver medallist who will also be in the Indonesian capital.

“The venue is very tricky as the wind condition is difficult to predict, you need to be very smart,” said Chan. “There will be some tough competition for medals among boardsailors from China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea but we all know each other very well, and the difference is very small.”

Hong Kong will also be sending Michael Cheng Chun-leung in the men’s RSX, while Kikabhoy Rafeek (men’s) and Ma Kwan-ching (women’s) will join forces for the RS:One mixed team.

Cheng, who also represented Hong Kong in the 2016 Olympic Games with a creditable eighth-place finish, said his experience in Rio would help.

“I had a good opening in Rio but then missed some chances in the later stages,” he said. “That served as good experience for me and I will not make similar mistakes in Jakarta. But the men’s event is very close and all four teams, Hong Kong, China, Japan and South Korea, have chances to win.”

The mixed team is a new event, adding the results of both the men’s and women’s events in RS:One.

Hong Kong won two gold (men’s mistral and women’s RSX) and two silver (men’s RSX and women’s RS:One) medals at the Incheon Games four years ago.