Asian Games 2018

Home grown paddlers to fly the Hong Kong flag at the Asian Games after ITTF import ban on players

No longer relying on mainland expertise, Wong Chun-ting and Doo Hoi-kem will have to do it alone in Jakarta looking for medals in table tennis competition

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 August, 2018, 6:40pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 August, 2018, 10:42pm

Paddlers Wong Chun-ting and Doo Hoi-kem will proudly wear the “made in Hong Kong” tag at the Asian Games – 10 years after an import ban of players was imposed on teams.

Before 2008, many countries imported quality players – mainly from the mainland – to boost their squads but the world table tennis governing body, the International Table Tennis Federation, shut the door on overseas players in trying to level the playing field.

The ITTF decided that players over the age of 21 would not be allowed to represent another nation at the world championships and the World Cup, while players between the ages of 15-20 would need to wait up to seven years before they can change their nationality.

The ruling stopped mainland players from entering Hong Kong and representing the city, which was common practice since the 1980s.

Of the 10 players representing Hong Kong at the Jakarta Games, only men’s player Jiang Tianyi, who arrived in Hong Kong in 2005, remain the only former mainlander on the squad.

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“We have come a long way since the new ruling was introduced in 2008,” said head coach Chan Kong-wah, whose squad will be led by Hong Kong-born players for the first time. “We had to work hard and hopefully we will see the fruits of our labour soon.

Wong and Doo captured bronze at both the 2015 and 2017 world championships and is considered the pair to watch in Jakarta. Wong is also ranked in the world’s top 10 in singles and will lead the challenge for a team medal determined to make up amends for his defeat by Chen Chien-an, of Taiwan, in Incheon four years ago in the team quarter-finals that cost Hong Kong bronze.

“With more opportunities opening up for our local youngsters over the last 10 years, these home grown players are quickly coming through the ranks but they must prove themselves at a major competition such as the Asian Games,” said Chan.

The last time Hong Kong won a men’s team medal at the Asian Games was in 2006 when they came third in Doha. The four-man squad was then headed by former mainland players, Li Ching and Ko lai-chak, who also clinched doubles gold in Doha.

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The Hong Kong women haven’t had medal team success since winning bronze at the 1988 Bangkok Games when three out of four players were former mainlanders. Tie Yana, who won gold for China at the World University Games before moving to Hong Kong, was the most successful Hong Kong women’s player. She clinched a mixed doubles gold with Cheung Yuk at the 2002 Busan Games and a silver in Doha in singles four years later.

Her husband, Tang Peng, who moved to Hong Kong in 2006, said the success of Hong Kong table tennis was all down to hard work with the former mainlanders laying down the foundations.

“Hong Kong players can be as successful as we were as long as they keep working hard and as long as they get the opportunities to compete and train. They can also reach the top,” said Tang, now men’s team coach of Wong and Ho Kwan-kit.

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“The sport is now moving in the right direction and given the success Hong Kong has had over the years, a new generation players has been attracted to the sport and they can emulate our success.”