One minute the Hong Kong swimmers were in the depths of despair and the next they were on the podium. Such was the scene at Jakarta Aquatic Center during the blue ribbon 4x100m medley relay race.
In dramatic events at the Asian Games, the Hong Kong women were told they had come a disappointing fourth, but then learned that the Chinese and South Korean teams had both been disqualified for rule infringements, pushing them up to second behind winners Japan.
This is the best result by a Hong Kong women’s swimming team for 24 years, and is also the first silver medal the swimmers have secured in the Games. Only two bronzes were won in the 2014 Incheon Games.
“It was like a dream come true,” said Stephanie Au Hoi-shun, the 26-year-old who became a media sensation after the 2016 Olympic Games, where she was the flag-bearer for the Hong Kong team.
“Just to get fourth, I was like, wow, I felt we earned that and it was still taking so long, so I was like ‘What’s going on? This can’t be happening’,” said Camille Cheng, who swam the last leg in the race, and retires after the Games. “And to get silver … I just turned around and said ‘Stephanie, we just got silver’ and she was like, ‘What?’ ”
Hong Kong was 15th after the first week of the Games with 15 medals, including one gold by Jacqueline Siu in individual dressage. China stayed in the lead with 119 medals, including 58 golds. It was way ahead of the second-placed Japan team, which had won 26 golds.
Singapore also picked up a medal for third place in the medley relay, prompting the two teams to celebrate with a collective hug. But while it may have cheered Hong Kong supporters, this did not go down very well with internet users on the mainland, who said they should have been hugging the disqualified team from China instead.
Some complained that the Hong Kong team members were politically incorrect, and charged that Singapore was an anti-China city-state.