【明報專訊】The Hong Kong team competing in the Tokyo Olympics have bagged some more medals, winning bronze medals in the women's table tennis team and karate kata events. That Hong Kong won a brace of medals within one day is cause for celebration. There was a time when Hong Kong's elite table tennis players all originated from mainland China. In the women's table tennis team event this year, the three players all are native Hong Kongers. What is particularly gratifying is that the many years spent on nurturing them have borne fruit, which has opened a new chapter in Hong Kong's sporting history and ushered in a new "Made in Hong Kong" era for the city's table tennis scene previously dominated by players originally from the mainland.
Following in the footsteps of Siobhan Haughey, the Hong Kong top swimmer, yesterday (August 5) even more female athletes stepped on the Olympic podium. They included the three Hong Kong table tennis players namely Doo Hoi-kem, Lee Ho-ching and Minnie Soo Wai-yam, and karateka Grace Lau Mo-sheung. So far in the Tokyo Olympics, the Hong Kong team have won five medals — one gold, two silver and two bronze. None of these medals has come easily. Each of them deserves the cheering of citizens.
Hong Kong female table tennis players had never won a medal in the Olympics previously. In yesterday's game, the Hong Kong team faced Germany, a better team thought to have a higher chance of winning the medal. The Hong Kong team lost the opening doubles contest, but they came back strongly and beat their worthy opponents 3–1 — the best result ever obtained by Hong Kong's women's table tennis team in the Olympics. The composure and brilliance of the players have left a strong impression on us. It was 17 years ago in Athens when Hong Kong table tennis players last won a medal in the Olympics, i.e. the silver won by Li Ching and Ko Lai-chak in the men's doubles. This year, the women's team coached by Li have won a bronze, which certainly carries extraordinary meaning. As for the development of table tennis in Hong Kong, this medal also marks an important milestone.
In the British colonial era, the nurturing of elite athletes was not regarded as important. Since the 1990s, the Hong Kong team competing in international tournaments such as table tennis and badminton had long heavily relied on elite athletes originating in mainland China who had gained Hong Kong citizenship. Table tennis has long been the forte of mainland China. Given the abundance of talent, it is extremely difficult to represent and make it into the national team. For some athletes, the chance of competing in the Olympics is actually higher if they represent other regions. Many countries or regions are also happy to invite them to their sides to build stronger teams. The German team in yesterday's bronze-medal game also had two players originally from China.
It goes without saying that if local elite athletes want to further enhance their standards, they must have more opportunities to receive world-class training. The successes of Siobhan Haughey and foil champion Cheung Ka-long have had everything to do with that. Hong Kong's geographical proximity to the mainland, which allows Hong Kong table tennis players to have training sessions on the mainland, interact with players there and receive guidance from legendary veterans in the national team, is also key to the Hong Kong team's success. It takes financial resources to recruit world-class coaches or arrange for athletes to receive training in regions of high sporting standards. If the government, businesses and the sports sector can work together, it is certain that Hong Kong's sporting standards will go further.
明報社評 2021.08.06：栽培「土炮」開花結果 女乒團奇兵創奇蹟
■/ Glossary 生字 /
a brace of sth：two things of the same type, esp. two birds or animals that have been killed for food or sport
usher in：if one thing ushers in another thing, it indicates that the other thing is about to begin
the state of being near sb/sth in distance or time