Paragliding is safe, insist Hong Kong’s Asian Games fliers in the wake of local paraglider’s death
The sport is under added scrutiny after the death of 44-year-old Patrick Chung, whose body was found in Lantau after a five-day search
Just days after a Hong Kong paraglider was found dead, local athletes insisted their sport was safe ahead of next month’s Asian Games in Jakarta – where paragliding will be introduced at the regional multi-sport Games for the first time.
At a Hong Kong flag presentation for the Games held at New Town Plaza in Sha Tin on Sunday, paragliding athletes Chiu Ho-nam and Eric Yam Chi-wai, said it was “just like any other outdoor sport” and that “risk management was important”.
Paragliding will be among the 30 medal sports that Hong Kong will participate in at the Games, which take place in Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 2.
“Our sport has a lower risk rate than [underwater] diving and skiing,” insisted Chiu, who will take part in cross-country paragliding in Jakarta. “Risk management is important in many sports and we have to take careful consideration of all factors that might affect competition, but if you can manage things well, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Tragedy struck the sport when 44-year-old Hong Kong paragliding enthusiast, Patrick Chung Yuk-wa, went missing after being swept off course and losing communication. His body was found five days later in Lantau.
The South China Morning Post has learned that a Hong Kong Asian Games member has withdrawn from the sport in Jakarta after suffering serious injuries during training in Austria. Cheung Yuk-wah was training with Chung when she fell into a lake, spending more than a month in hospital in Austria.
The 42-year-old Cheung only returned to the city recently and although her name was still on the 580-member Hong Kong squad list, it is understood she has already withdrawal from the squad.
“We feel sorry for Cheung’s injury as she would not be able to take part in the Asian Games, but this is just an accident and it happens,” said Chiu.
Paragliding started as a sport in Hong Kong in the late 1980s but has taken off in popularity in recent years. Yam, who will take part in paragliding accuracy landing, hoped he and Chiu could continue to compete at the next Asian Games in Hangzhou, China in 2022.
“The sport has seen some very good development in China and we want to have another opportunity [to compete] after the Indonesia Games,” said Yam.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor presented the Hong Kong flag to local sports supremo, Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, in a ceremony to mark the city’s participation in Jakarta, where Hong Kong will send its largest-ever delegation of a 780, including 200 coaching staff and officials.
Cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze, who did not attend the presentation because she’s training in Hong Kong, remains the biggest local medal hope.
The 2012 London Games bronze medallist indicated her good form on the track recently. In the Japan Cup this month, she set a new Asian record in the women’s 200 metres, a qualifying event for the sprint. She has a great chance retaining her two gold medals won in Incheon four years ago in the sprint and keirin.
Other cyclists such as Leung Chun-wing and Cheung King-lok will be also mount serious challenges for medals, while squash and fencing also have good medal prospects in Jakarta.