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HK, Macao athletes relishing national showpiece
 updatetime:2021-09-16 18:40:09   View:0 Source:chinadaily.com.cn


Flagbearers Au Chi-fung of Hong Kong (left) and Pui Pang-fong of Macao lead their respective delegations into Xi'an Olympic Sports Center during the opening ceremony of China's 14th National Games on Wednesday. [Photo by Wang Xianmin /Ni Minzhe / for China Daily]

Athletes from Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions are always big favorites with fans and media at China's National Games.

This year's edition of the Games in Shaanxi province has been no different, with both delegations entering Xi'an Olympic Sports Center to deafening cheers and applause from over 20,000 spectators at Wednesday's opening ceremony.

It's the seventh time since 1997 that a Hong Kong delegation, which this year boasts 169 athletes, has competed at the Games. Hong Kong athletes are competing in 18 sports this year, including athletics, badminton, table tennis and equestrian.

Macao's delegation, which comprises 102 athletes, is participating in 20 sports, including swimming, shooting, table tennis and badminton.

This is Macao's sixth trip to the National Games, but for the team's flagbearer, badminton player Pui Pang-Fong, the whole experience is very new.

"This is the first time for me to attend the National Games, and I'm impressed by how friendly the local Xi'an people are to us. I can sense their passion for sports. There's a great sporting atmosphere here, and the athletes' village has provided us with wonderful facilities," Pui told China Daily on Thursday.

"I was first surprised to know that I was selected as the flagbearer of our delegation for the opening ceremony. I'm in the early stages of my career and I haven't won anything yet for my team. I want to thank our delegation's trust in me. Being the flagbearer is a responsibility and motivation to me."

Participating in the opening ceremony was a memory of a lifetime for Pui, with the youngster especially impressed by the newly built Xi'an Olympic Sports Center.

"From the outside, the main stadium looks really modern, evoking a sense of science and technology. And when you walk inside the venues, you can see all the light effects, which is really amazing," he said.

Pui told China Daily that the Macao badminton team arrived in Xi'an last Thursday, with the competition starting over the weekend. Although he ultimately failed to win a medal, he said he had learned a lot from competing against top-level domestic players.

"During the men's singles competition, many of our rivals were national team players who are at a very high level. They have their unique way of playing. I think Team China veteran Chen Long is still really competitive and consistent," he added.

Pui began playing badminton when he was 8 years old, and turned professional over the last few years. He says testing himself against the nation's best players has been key to his recent development.

"My idol is Lin Dan, he is so great," Pui said. "I spent most of my time this year training with the Guangdong badminton team. They are very competitive and an environment like this can motivate players to keep pushing themselves to grow.

"I always try my best in each match. And as long as I can keep trying, I for sure can win something. I will try my best to avoid injuries to be able to attend the next National Games."

Sports climber Au Chi-Fung, the flagbearer of the Hong Kong delegation, was also wowed by the opening ceremony, and said he was looking forward to competing against and mixing with high-level athletes from across China.

"I was surprised to know I was selected as the flagbearer. I was actually pretty nervous to have such an important role at such a big event," Au told Nanfang Metropolis Daily.

"I really want to thank our nation's support and help for Hong Kong athletes. In recent years, Hong Kong athletes have more and more chances to participate in high-level domestic and international tournaments, which are very valuable to us.

"And I feel Hong Kong people now attach more significance to sports. Hong Kong has a very quick pace of life, and people can easily ignore sports. But when more and more people see the Hong Kong athletes competing at big events such as the National Games and Olympics, more will start to embrace sports."

This is Au's second National Games campaign, and the 26-year-old also competed at the 2018 Asian Games. He says he's amazed at the rapid growth of sports climbing in China in recent years.

"The first time I participated in the National Games, sports climbing was not even a medal event," said Au.

"I first practiced sports climbing when I was in middle school. We had the correct facilities for the sport at that time, and once I started to play this sport, I could not stop.

"For me, the charm of sports climbing is the sense of achievement when you reach the top."

Web Editor:MXJ