Monday, April 21, 2014   

Lone Hong Kong athlete battles big chill
(02-16 14:28)

Short-track skater Han Yueshuang, Hong Kong's sole competitor at the Vancouver Olympics, is celebrating her Lunar New Year holiday recovering from a cold after a clothing mix-up.

Han, pictured, caught a slight chill after carrying the flag at the indoor opening ceremony during which she could not wear a warm jacket.

She failed to qualify from the women's 500m heats on Saturday but was still booked for the 1500m and 1000m heats on February 20 and 24.

A major global clothing maker has a deal to supply outfits to Hong Kong's Sports Federation and Olympic Committee, but it provides only those for summer sports, Hong Kong Skating Union manager Liu Dingding said.

Hong Kong athletes wear clothes provided by the maker at Olympic opening and closing ceremonies under the contract, he said.

The Hong Kong Olympic committee have supplied warm jackets in Hong Kong colors, produced by a less known maker, to Han and officials but they were told not to wear them at the ceremony, Liu added.

They instead wore light jackets supplied by the sponsor.

The 27-year-old skater said: "What was really bad was that we went outside after the opening ceremony and had to wait for our bus in the rain.

"I still have a runny nose and a sore throat. But my body temperature is back to normal,'' Han said after finishing third and next-to-last in one of the eight 500m groups.

"I will try my best in the next races but have no specific targets at the moment,'' added Han, who moved from China's mainland city of Jilin seven years ago and also competed as Hong Kong's only athlete at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

She was 24th in both the 500m and 1500m and 18th in the 1000m in Turin,

"We took her out to Chinatown Saturday night to celebrate the New Year. We tried to make her happy,'' the skating union manager said.

Han shunned food and slept the whole morning but was back on the ice in the evening on Sunday.

Han earned a ticket to Vancouver to fill in for Wang Xinxue, 22, who arrived from the mainland in 2007.

Wang failed to meet the seven-year residency requirement for the Olympics although she booked a berth at the World Cup in Marquette, one of the Olympic qualifiers.

Han, due to retire after the Asian championships in Japan in March, placed 35th in the 1500m and 59th in the 1000m in the US city.

She needed a special exemption from the International Olympic Committee to solve her own passport problem in 2006.

She finally collected her Hong Kong passport in October and trained mostly in the mainland for lack of skating facilities in Hong Kong.

Speed skating was introduced to Hong Kong in the 1990s. Hong Kong made their Winter Olympic debut in 2002 when Cordia Tsoi Pop-Yee and Christy Ren competed in short track.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
   
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