Asian Games 2018

Asian Games: ‘We only term it an accident if somebody dies,’ says paragliding governing body as it insists sport is safe despite ‘incidents’

One prospective Hong Kong team-member was seriously injured in the build-up to the Games and there were three accidents in the competition as organisers point to ‘inherent’ risk in all sports

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 August, 2018, 7:08pm
UPDATED : Friday, 31 August, 2018, 7:08pm

Paragliding enjoyed its grand coming-out party at the Asian Games in Indonesia and as organisers switched their attention to inclusion in the Olympic programme, they were forced to defend the sport’s safety record at a media conference on Friday when questioned about three separate in-competition “incidents” during its debut.

Sanjay Thapar, secretary general of the Airsport Federation of Asia (ASFA) explained how the body categorises injuries when quizzed on the sport’s safety during its Indonesia debut.

“Paragliding is safer than riding a motorbike in Jakarta,” Thapar said. “Any sport has its own inherent elements. Air sports has its own.

“In our sport, we classify these things as ‘accidents’ and ‘incidents’,” Thapar added. “We did have three incidents when our aim was to have none. Everything was in place. We had three incidents. We had no accidents. We would have termed it as an ‘accident’ if somebody would have died or if someone would have landed up with a very serious injury.”

In the event, three pilots were hospitalised during the nine-day competition.

Chinese pilot Wang Jianwei and Afghanistan flier Lida Hozoori were taken to hospital after crashing during the competition. Wang suffered a broken leg, whilst Hozoori was hospitalised for three days after suffering neck and back injuries in a crash.

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A third unidentified pilot was also hospitalised suffering from “a minor hairline fracture and bruising to the arm”.

Shortly before the Hong Kong team left to compete in Indonesia, paragliders Chiu Ho-nam and Eric Yam Chi-wai insisted that the sport was safe in light of the death of 44-year-old Patrick Chung Yuk-wa, an experienced recreational paraglider, who was found dead five days after he went missing while gliding in Lantau.

In a sad twist, Chung had recently been with Chung Yuk-wah, a pilot from Hong Kong who had been set to represent the territory at the Asian Games before she was badly injured practising a manoeuvre during a training course in Austria in June this year.

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Chung, an experienced pilot who had competed in international competition spent a number of weeks in hospital after a high-speed crash into Lake Hallstat, which required her to be rescued from the water.

Mubarak Al Swailem, president of ASFA, said procedures were in place to ensure competitors’ safety.

“We have procedures and our sport is not a dangerous sport,” Al Swailem said. “There is a procedural way to do it and the riders need to follow that. [During the] competition at the Asian Games – we have had some incidents but it is in the normal procedures for any competition. We take care about it, and all the pilots are, thank god, OK.”

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Thapar added that safety procedures were always being improved.

“Safety procedures are something that is always being upgraded. Notwithstanding, we feel what procedures are in place are enough. There is no need to introduce anything more,” Thapar said.

Hosts Indonesia dominated the event claiming two gold, one silver and three bronze medals in the six disciplines, and Al Swailem said the event had been a big success and that its inclusion in the Asian Games programme has paved the way for it become an Olympic sport.

He also revealed that ASFA were now aiming to have skydiving included in the programme for the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games.