HK's bronze girls shine brilliantly

Finance | Michael Shum 6 Aug 2021

Hong Kong's athletes were in magnificent form yesterday, adding two bronze medals to the Tokyo Olympics haul.

That made it five medals - one gold, two silvers, two bronzes - in Hong Kong's best-ever Olympic performance.

The women's table tennis team got the ball rolling by beating Germany 3-1 to snatch bronze - Hong Kong's first in a team event and second in table tennis. It was also revenge as the Germans had knocked out Hong Kong in the quarter-finals at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Then big medal hope Sarah Lee Wai-sze failed to come through in the cycling arena, losing in the semi-finals of the keirin after being boxed in.

But karate star Grace Lau Mo-sheung raised the mood again as she edged past Turkey's Dilara Bozan with a score of 26.94 against 26.52 to win the women's individual kata bronze medal.

The three-strong women's table tennis team - all home-grown players and seeded fourth - had to take out third-seeded Germany in the women's team event, which was introduced to the Olympics in 2008

Coach Li Ching made changes to the lineup, with Hong Kong's No 1, Doo Hoi-kem, 24, linking with Lee Ho-ching, 28 in the opening doubles match.

Lee's usual partner in the doubles, Minnie Soo Wai-yam, 23, was entrusted with two crucial singles matches, which would normally have gone to Doo.

After Hong Kong lost a tense doubles match to 38-year-old Shan Xiaona and 27-year-old Petrissa Solja of Germany and the final game of the match was forced into four deuces, Soo smashed into the scene in her first Olympiad.

She beat defensive expert Han Ying, 38, 3-1 to tie the series at 1-1 - a huge boost to Hong Kong's morale.

Doo and Soo then went on to defeat their opponents in subsequent singles matches - and did not lose a game - to claim victory and the bronze medal.

Besides being Hong Kong's first in a team event the medal was the second top-flight award in table tennis after Li Ching and Ko Lai-chak took silver in men's doubles at the 2004 Athens Games.

But coach Li said he was more thrilled than when he won the silver.

He also singled out Soo for playing well in the two singles matches to set up the success.

"We were the underdogs judging by past results," he said, jubilant that his shuffles paid off. "The girls showed a strong fighting spirit, and Soo's smashes were brilliant," he said before returning to his part in proceedings by describing the changes he made as "ingenious" in allowing Soo's strength to count in a big way.

Speaking for herself, Soo said she only thought of playing her best when it came to every rally.

Her opponent was under pressure in the fourth game, Soo added, and the result even came as a shock to her.

"I had never won in matches against Han in the past," she went on, "and I had expected to lose."

But then it came to her thinking that "I cannot let them win over us in the match and in terms of morale, so I focused on playing each rally the best I could.

"I'd also like to thank my teammates. One of the big reasons for us winning was our mutual support and encouragement."

Teammate Lee Ho-ching could not hide her excitement at finally taking hold of a medal after playing in three Olympics.

Her teammates, Lee added, produced performances worth "200 points out of 100."

Top player Doo said it was a roller-coaster ride in this year's Games, coming back for the bronze after losing in the mixed doubles.

"It's like a dream," she said. "And I have learned a lot in terms of my mentality during matches. I'd also like to thank my teammates for their support."

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor joined in the back-slapping routines by saying she was delighted to see the table tennis team led by Li Ching showing the "great tradition" of Hong Kong athletes passing the baton to a younger generation.

"I'm moved by the great perseverance and tenacity displayed by the Hong Kong table tennis team in the competition," she added. "Although they have gone through ups and downs in their previous competitions they continued to demonstrate solidarity."

In terms of prize money, the bronze medal will see the three members of the team dividing HK$2.5 million under the Henderson Land Commendation Scheme for Elite Athletes.

As Doo took fifth place in both the mixed doubles and women's singles events earlier, she had already bagged HK$625,000 under the scheme. So now she comes home from Tokyo more than HK$1 million richer.

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