Asian Games 2018: Sarah Lee set to shine the brightest as Hong Kong draws on 64 years of Asiad history
The star cyclist is level with Marco Fu and Wong Kam-po with three gold medals and is poised to take pride of place in the record books
When the Hong Kong delegation marches into the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta at the opening ceremony on Saturday, they will be following in the footsteps of more than half a century of athletes form the territory.
On its third visit to the Asian Games in 1962, the first time Indonesia hosted the event, Hong Kong sent a delegation of just 54 athletes. That number has increased tenfold for this edition, with Hong Kong’s 2018 team consisting of 586 athletes.
Located in central Jakarta, the Gelora Bung Karno stadium will be hosting its second Games opening, although the seating capacity has been reduced from 110,000 in 1962 to the existing 76,000 after a major facelift for the 2018 Games.
Despite a small squad, Hong Kong still returned with medals from Jakarta in 1962. In table tennis, the women’s team of Baguio Wong, Fan Sin-kwan and Chan Yee-ching captured a silver medal, while tennis player Tsui Yuen-yuen contributed half of another silver medal as she partnered with Ceylon player Ranjani Jayasuriya to come second in the women’s doubles.
Hong Kong missed the inaugural Asian Games when it was held in New Delhi, India in 1951, a regional games held after the second world war to promote cultural exchanges and raise the level of Asian sports to a world standard.
The Hong Kong Olympic Committee was only recognised by the International Olympic Committee before the 1952 Helsinki Olympics of which Hong Kong managed to send a squad of four swimmers.
Following its inclusion under the Olympic umbrella, Hong Kong was invited to participate in the second Asian Games held in Manila in 1954.
Sprinter Stephen Xavier claimed a bronze medal in the men’s 200 metres on the running track, the first of many to come in the years to follow.
However, Hong Kong had to wait for over three decades before they finally secured an Asian Games gold medal, with the ultimate coming in 1986 through tenpin bowler Catherine Che Kuk-hung.
Che took out the women’s singles in Seoul and also took a silver in the masters, making herself one of Hong Kong’s most successful athletes as she also secured two bronze medals at the 1978 Games in Bangkok.
After Che, Hong Kong failed to win gold at either of the next two Games in Beijing and Hiroshima.
Then at the Bangkok Games in 1998, Hong Kong sprang to life with five gold medals, including Marco Fu Ka-chun in the men’s team snooker and cyclist Wong Kam-po in the men’s road race.
Both athletes sit top of Hong Kong’s Asian Games gold medal standings with three after going on to clinch more gold in subsequent tournaments.
Another treble gold-medal winner is women’s cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze, who claimed her first gold at the 2010 Guangzhou Games, followed by two more in Incheon four years ago.
Lee is making her third Asian Games appearance in Jakarta and she will take part in three events, including two of her specialities in the sprint and keirin, ensuring she stands a strong chance to take outright top spot in the record books.