Health and wellness

Hong Kong triathlete blasts organisers as Asia Cup ends in farce when 22 athletes are disqualified in Lantau race

  • Hong Kong representative Oscar Coggins calls decision ‘ridiculous’
  • US competitor complains to national body
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 October, 2018, 3:50pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 October, 2018, 10:47pm

In an unprecedented finish, the first 22 athletes to cross the finishing line in the men’s event of the ASTC Sprint Triathlon Asian Cup in Lantau on Sunday morning were disqualified after taking a shorter route in the first turn of the run.

All the athletes, including three Hong Kong representatives headed by Oscar Coggins, were in the leading pack which made a premature turn during the first lap of the two-lap, five-kilometre run, the last discipline after a 750-metre swim and 20-kilometre bike ride.

An official said the pack ran about 250 metres shorter after missing the correct turn.

On the second lap when they reached the same point, they were told by marshals to go straight for the correct turn, but when they arrived at the finishing line, all 22 athletes were disqualified.

Coggins, who finished ninth in the pack, said the decision to disqualify them was ridiculous.

“It’s just poor organisation,” said the 19 year-old, who missed the Asian Games this summer due to delayed paperwork of his Hong Kong passport application. “In my opinion it’s all the organisers’ fault. The course was not marked and nobody knew where to turn as there was one cone there and then nothing. We were directed to turn early by a marshal.

“We have appealed but the result did not change. One of the American athletes has taken the case to their own federation and we’ll see if there is any change of the results.”

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Australia’s Nicholas Free, who finished behind Coggins in 10th place, was also disappointed with the decision.

“On the first lap of the run, all of us were running quite fast but there was no official nearby and no one to tell us where to turn and we all turned the wrong turn. We didn’t know until we finished and suddenly we were all disqualified,” he said. “This is the first time I have had this happen in a race. It’s a bit frustrating and there is not too much you can do about it.”

The Australian athlete said they would appeal to the International Triathlon Union (ITU) through their own federation as the next step and hopefully that would change the result.

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Takanori Sugihara, who was behind the leading pack, became the men’s champion, but the Japanese athlete did not turn up to the prize presentation, while another Hong Kong athlete, Nicholas Tsang Cheung-sing, was second. Zhang Chi, of China, came third. Tsang, however, preferred not to comment on the disqualification.

The organising committee said they had looked into the race course after the incident. The committee said in a statement: “Due to the fact that both the elite female open and the elite female junior categories that were held earlier this morning was completed successfully, ITU, the officiating body, confirms the course is suitable for racing, therefore we regret to confirm that 22 participants were disqualified in the male elite open category due to incompletion of the first loop of the running course.”

The committee also sent out a press release about the races but failed to mention the disqualification.

Hong Kong women’s representative Hilda Choi Yan-yin, who ran before the men’s race, said the mark was not very clear before the first turn in the run but fortunately the women didn’t make the same mistake.

The female category was won by Hungary’s Zsofia Kovacs in one hour two minutes and 52 seconds, followed by Australia’s Joanne Miller (1:03:18) with Alberte Kjaer Pedersen, of Denmark, finishing third (1:03:26). Hong Kong’s Choi was 15th in 1:06:46.

Coggins, meanwhile, obtained his Hong Kong passport one week after the Asian Games and will set his sights firmly on making it to the Tokyo Olympic Games. “It’s unfortunate as it would be great to have been part of the [Asian Games] team and the team did pretty well,” he said.

“My Olympic qualification campaign is going very well at the moment as I am leading the regional Asian ranking. If I hold my position to the end of the qualification period, I will qualify.”

Coggins said the disqualification might affect his Olympic qualifying campaign as some Chinese athletes will get more points due to the disqualification but nearest rival, Heo Min-ho of South Korea, was also among the leading pack and was disqualified.