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Published: 09:29, September 21, 2023 | Updated: 10:36, September 21, 2023
HK hopeful of record medal haul at Hangzhou Asian Games
By Oasis Hu in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province
Published:09:29, September 21, 2023 Updated:10:36, September 21, 2023 By Oasis Hu in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province

Chief Secretary Eric Chan Kwok-ki (front row, fourth left) presents the flag of the HKSAR to the Hong Kong, China delegations to the Ulaanbaatar 2023 East Asian Youth Games and the Hangzhou 19th Asian Games at Kowloon Park Sports Centre on on July 25, 2023. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)

Hong Kong’s sports community said the upcoming Hangzhou Asian Games will present a golden opportunity for the city’s emerging athletes to soar to new heights.

Some of them boldly projected that the delegation will win anywhere from 40 medals to a remarkable 60, to shatter the previous record of 46 medals — eight gold, 18 silver, and 20 bronze medals — achieved at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. 

Scheduled to start on Saturday and run through Oct 8 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, the 2023 Asian Games will witness the largest-ever Hong Kong contingent, with over 900 representatives, including 681 athletes spanning 41 sports. The city’s core strengths in swimming, fencing, cycling, and karate will be at the forefront.

Hong Kong foil fencers (back, from left) Yeung Chi-ka, Nicholas Edward Choi Ho-yin, Edgar Cheung Ka-long and (front) Ryan Choi Chun-yin pose for a photo during a media briefing on Sept 4, 2023, in Hong Kong. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)

The substantial increase in participation augments the city’s prospects on the regional stage, said Lee Yuet-man, chairman of the Hong Kong Recreation and Sports Professionals General Union in an interview with China Daily on Monday. He estimates that Hong Kong can secure a total of about 60 medals, including 10 golds and 20 silvers.

Hong Kong athletes are capable of striking gold in cycling, squash, swimming, fencing, and martial arts, Lee said, adding that equestrian and windsurfing also offer the potential for medals.

The substantial increase in participation augments the city’s prospects on the regional stage, said Lee Yuet-man, chairman of the Hong Kong Recreation and Sports Professionals General Union in an interview with China Daily on Monday. He estimates that Hong Kong can secure a total of about 60 medals, including 10 golds and 20 silvers

In fencing, Hong Kong’s star fencer, Edgar Cheung Ka-long, will attract a lot of attention in the men’s individual foil following his historic Tokyo Olympics gold. As the first Hong Kong male to achieve this feat, Cheung is primed for gold again, Lee said. 

Swimming often headlines Hong Kong’s delegation, and this year’s 37-member squad, the largest ever, promises multiple podium picks, Lee said. 

ALSO READ: HK fencers eye championships at Hangzhou Asian Games

He said he believes the team could win three to five medals, including golds in the 100m and 200m freestyle events, in which Siobhan Haughey has a very good chance, Lee said. 

Haughey’s outstanding performance at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, where she won two silver medals in those events, made her the first competitor from Hong Kong to win multiple medals at a single Olympics.

The women’s summing relay and women’s 10km open water race are also highly likely to yield medals, Lee said.

On the men’s side, breaststroke ace Adam Chillingworth carries Hong Kong’s hopes after setting a Hong Kong record in the 200m last year.

In karate, Grace Lau Mo-sheung and Tsang Yee-ting emerged as gold-medal favorites in the women’s kata event and women’s 50kg category respectively after capturing gold at the Asian Championships in Malaysia in July.

Cycling sees a changing of the guard with the retirement of Lee Wai-sze, a double-gold medalist at Jakarta. Hopes are firmly placed on 22-year-old rising star Ceci Lee Sze-wing, fresh off her silver at the Asian Championships in June.

Hong Kong's Siobhan Haughey (right) reacts finishing second as USA's Abbey Weitzeil looks on after competing in the final of the women's 100m freestyle swimming event during the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka on July 28, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)

Lee Yuet-man also highlighted two sports new to the Games — break dancing and esports. In esports, he acknowledged the city lags behind the Chinese mainland, Macao, Taiwan, and South Korea. 

However, Hong Kong break dancers are highly likely to stand out with their innovative ability, Lee added.

ALSO READ: Hong Kong gymnasts aim for Hangzhou Asian Games medals

Challenge accepted

Echoing Lee, Jerry Yung Long-chin, director of Hong Kong Sports Management, an elite sports-training company established in 1996, said he believes that Hong Kong could achieve 50 to 60 medals. 

Despite the challenges, Jerry Yung Long-chin, director of Hong Kong Sports Management, said the women’s table tennis team is highly likely to get medals, as veterans like Doo Hoi-kem have outstanding skills and performed consistently well, and newcomers like Zhu Chengzhu have done well at many tournaments in recent years

Yung, a former Hong Kong table tennis team player and now a coach, said he has great confidence in the current table tennis players, many of whom were his students for over a decade.

Earlier this month, the Hong Kong table tennis team announced that the original contestants for the women’s team competition, two bronze medalists at the Tokyo Olympics — Soo Wai-yam and Doo Hoi-kem — had sustained injuries. 

Soo will miss the Asian Games because of a hand injury, and she will be replaced by 27-year-old Lam Yee-lok. However, Doo will participate despite her condition. 

Despite the challenges, Yung said the women’s table tennis team is highly likely to get medals, as veterans like Doo have outstanding skills and performed consistently well, and newcomers like Zhu Chengzhu have done well at many tournaments in recent years.

ALSO READ: Hangzhou 2022 unveils pictograms for Asian Games

He also sees potential in the mixed doubles combination of Doo and Wong Chun-ting, who currently leads the men’s squad, saying the duo has forged a stable partnership over the past several years.

Hong Kong gymnastics and trampoline athletes pose for a group photo with their coaches before heading to the Hangzhou Asian Games. (ZHU WEIJIE / CHINA DAILY)

Beyond competition

With China hosting the Asian Games again, athletes from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will benefit from logistical advantages such as shorter travel and familiarity with the environment, Lee Yuet-man said when discussing the team’s strengths.

In addition, the vocal encouragement of the Chinese mainland compatriots when supporting Hong Kong teams at the games — a regular sight at international competitions — can enhance Hong Kong players’ inspiration, Lee said. 

The Asian Games present an opportunity for Hong Kong to showcase its advantaged sports performances and gain more opportunities to host international sporting events, contributing to the development of its sports infrastructure and attracting greater funding and support for its sports industry, Lee said

On a higher level, Lee said the Asian Games are a reflection of regional comprehensive strength, which can bring many benefits to Hong Kong.

The Asian Games present an opportunity for Hong Kong to showcase its advantaged sports performances and gain more opportunities to host international sporting events, contributing to the development of its sports infrastructure and attracting greater funding and support for its sports industry, Lee said. 

The Asian Games also play an important role in advancing new programs in the city, Lee said.

ALSO READ: Hangzhou Asian Games Village opens

For example, as a new medal event, esports require intense strategy, teamwork, and training far beyond casual play. The event’s debut at the Hangzhou Asian Games can help dispel peoples’ misconceptions about it, Lee said.

Lobo Louie Hung-tak, associate head of the Department of Health and Physical Education at the Education University of Hong Kong, said that the Asian Games provide a world-class sporting competition and a platform facilitating cultural exchange across the region.

Beyond mainstream sports like aquatics, track and field, and ball games, the Asian Games incorporate activities with a distinctive Asian heritage and tradition, Louie said. For example, the Asian Games embrace local cultural sports, such as martial arts and kabaddi — a team sport indigenous to South Asia played between two teams of seven players on opposite halves of a field. 

Doo Hoi-kem of China's Hong Kong hits a return during the women's singles round of 32 match against Chen Meng (not in photograph) of China at the WTT Champions Macao 2023 in Macao, south China, April 18, 2023. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

He said he hopes this year’s highprofile Games will boost fitness levels in the city so that more residents enjoy healthier lifestyles.

Beyond the merits of competition, Yung said, the Asian Games are an invaluable opportunity for Hong Kong athletes and audiences to learn new things and expand their vision.

It has been reported that the Hangzhou Asian Games will incorporate artificial intelligence technology in aspects such as medical support and audience interaction.

READ MORE: Mascot animation competition for Hangzhou Asian Games launched

After experiencing the wonders of high-tech advances on the mainland, athletes can bring these insights back to Hong Kong and elevate the city’s sports industry to new heights, Yung said. 

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