Cover Table tennis player Ng Mui-wui will head to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. (Photo: Courtesy of the Hong Kong Paralympic Committee & Sports Association for the Physically Disabled)

Hong Kong hopes to build upon its successful record at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics this year, when 24 athletes will represent the city

After the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics wrapped on Sunday 8 August, sports fans are now eagerly looking forward to the Tokyo Paralympic Games. From August 24 to September 5, around 4,400 Para athletes from more than 160 countries and territories will compete across 22 sports. Once upon a time, the Paralympics was treated as an afterthought to the Olympics and although there still is a long way to go before Paralympians receive the same spotlight, training investment and sponsorship deals as Olympic athletes, the Paralympics of today are higher profile than ever before.

The Hong Kong 2020 Paralympics delegation will consist of 24 athletes encompassing eight sports, namely archery, athletics, boccia, equestrian, swimming, table tennis, wheelchair fencing and badminton, the latter making its Paralympics debut this year. A further team of 40 people, including coaches, sports scientists and medical officials, will join the athletes in Tokyo.

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Unlike Hong Kong’s Olympic medal tally, which until this year's windfall comprised just three medals, Hong Kong Paralympians have won a total of 126 medals comprising 40 gold, 37 silver and 49 bronze, since participating in its first Paralympic Games in 1972 in Heidelberg, Germany.

With seven competitors poised for the Games, boccia players form Hong Kong's largest Paralympic cohort. A sport created for people with severe physical disabilities affecting motor skills, boccia is a ball game likened to bowls in its objective: throw or roll balls as close as possible to a target ball, or jack, tactically knocking the opposition's ball out of the way. However, Hong Kong’s strongest sport is wheelchair fencing, which has earned the city gold medals at every Paralympics since Atlanta 1996, thanks to the combined efforts of former competitors Chan Yui-chong and Fung Ying-ki, and Alison Yu Chui-yee, the latter of whom will appear at her fifth Games this year.

Here are eight Hong Kong athletes to look out for at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Ngai Ka-chuen - Archery

Ngai Ka-chuen, Hong Kong’s only bowman at this year’s Games, is a mainstay at archery meets around the world. He won outright the compound men open contest at the Asian Continental Qualification Tournament for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in Bangkok, Thailand in 2019 and will bring his best shot to the Yumenoshima Park Archery Field alongside archers from across the globe.

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Natasha Tse Pui-ting - Equestrian

London 2012 was the first Paralympics for Natasha Tse Pui-ting, who was the youngest rider in the dressage event at that Games. The Rio Games four years later did not yield any medals for the young rider, but her dedication to her sport was not affected. In interviews, Tse has spoken of the positive influence equestrianism has played in her life after being born with cerebral palsy and taking up horse-riding aged four. “Without riding, I [would] perhaps be less tough and can be troubled by what my body can’t do instead of being so optimistic,” she says.

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Leung Yuk-wing

Two gold medals in Athens 2004 cemented Leung Yuk-wing's name within the international boccia scene and by 2009 he was ranked world number one. However, years of underperformance would follow before Leung rose again to win four gold medals at the World Championships and Asian Para Games, followed by another gold Olympic medal in Rio 2016. Twice nominated as “sportsperson of the year with a disability” by sporting awards body Laureus, Leung is one of the city's most assured competitors. For newcomers, competing on a world stage can be daunting; Leung's experience stands him in good stead for podium results.

Yam Kwok-fan - Athletics

Sprinter Yam Kwok-fan will be hoping to build on her bronze medal in the 200m event at the 2018 Para Asian Para Games. After competing in the 100m and 200m events in Rio 2016, where she notched up two personal bests, she will return to the same races in Tokyo, where she will be both the only woman and only runner to represent Hong Kong.

Kelvin Tang Wai-lok - Swimming

Swimmer Kelvin Tang Wai-lok won Hong Kong’s first gold medal of the Rio 2016 Paralympics, setting in motion a metallurgical landslide for the city at those Games. Then 19, Tang beat other British and Australian competitors for the top podium place in the 200m freestyle and set a Paralympic record in the process. It was his first Paralympic medal after joining the Hong Kong swimming team for London 2012. He then channelled his racing experience into winning the 100m backstroke at the 2014 Asian Para Games.

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Ng Mui-wui - Table Tennis

After bagging bronze in Rio, table tennis player Ng Mui-wui makes her Olympic return at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. After her competitive debut in 2011 as a teenager, Ng has represented her home city a host of times on the international stage and has held her ranking as the world number two since 2019. In both 2018 and 2019, she was one of the eight finalists at the 2019 Hong Kong Sports Stars Awards, a recognition of her impressive track record to date.

Alison Yu Chiu-yee - Wheelchair Fencing

One of Hong Kong’s most decorated and successful athletes, wheelchair fencer Alison Yu Chiu-yee has eleven medals to her name, including seven gold, three silver and a bronze. She made her first Paralympic appearance in Athens in 2004 and has featured in every Games since. Yu started her athletic career as a swimmer but says she was drawn to fencing because she thought the outfits were cool and the sport allowed her to talk while competing (unlike swimming). Of her sport she says, “I think it is physical chess: you have to use your mental strategy and also your physical strength, so compared to swimming wheelchair fencing is more interesting.”

See also: Cheung Ka-long: 5 Things To Know About The Hong Kong Olympic Fencing Champion

Daniel Chan Ho-yuen & Chu Man-kai - Badminton

The 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games will see the introduction of badminton and taekwondo to the programme, replacing sailing and seven-a-side football. Hong Kong will send two badminton players to Tokyo: Daniel Chan Ho-yuen and Chu Man-kai, the former competing in the wheelchair class. The experience of the two players stands Hong Kong in good stead for badminton’s debut: in the 2019 World Para Championships in Basel, Switzerland, Chu became a men’s doubles champion while Chan, then world number two, snagged a silver medal in the men’s singles.

In his youth, Chan, who was born able-bodied, was a competitive badminton player until he lost a leg in a car accident, an injury that took him a long time to recover from, both mentally and physically. He found his way back into the sport after being inspired by former classmate and boccia player Yan Chi-lau, who won a gold medal in the 2004 Athens Paralympics.

“Before I sat on my sports wheelchair, I was in an electric chair because I was very limited [in my ability]. At my first practice, I honestly thought I was flying with wings, because I had no limit. I could move where I wanted to. I loved my first training,” he says. Getting to his first Games in Tokyo is a testament to the power of his mental resilience. “You can’t decide what happens to you or how people look at you. But you have the choice of what your attitude should be or face how people look at you. It’s all your choice.”

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