Wed, Nov 13, 2019 - Page 16 News List

HK Open begins despite protests

AFP, HONG KONG

Badminton’s Hong Kong Open began yesterday, despite fresh pro-democracy protests across the financial hub with a number of the territory’s players qualifying for the main draw to delight their home fans.

The badminton showpiece is one of the few high-profile sports events to go ahead in the territory during five months of increasingly violent demonstrations. The BWF Super 500 event, featuring many top players from China, had been thrown into doubt by the police shooting of a demonstrator and a man being set on fire by protesters on Monday, but there was a large attendance with occasional shouts in Cantonese of “add oil” -- a sporting chant used to urge players on that has been adopted by the pro-democracy movement.

Cheung Ying Mei was up at dawn to battle traffic and the crippled territory transport system to get to the Hong Kong Coliseum on time, but it was worth it after her 21-10, 20-22, 21-19 win against Indonesia’s Lyanny Alessandra Mainaky.

Today, Cheung faces Denmark’s Line Hojmark Kjaersfeldt in the women’s singles first round.

Hong Kong mixed-doubles pair Ng Tsz Yau and Yeung Ming Nok had a bitter-sweet win over compatriots Yeung Shing Choi and Ka Yan Fan 21-14, 21-13.

“They are our team too,” Ng said, but Yeung declined to give an opinion on the protests, emphasizing that they had not affected the tournament. “Even ... with what is happening, they [fans] also come in to cheer,” adding that the crowd was “supporting all of Hong Kong, everything.”

Yeung then teamed up with Chang Tak Ching in the men’s doubles to beat Taiwanese pair Chang Ko-chi and Lu Chia-pin 21-18, 21-17.

World No. 1 Kento Momota unexpectedly withdrew from the Hong Kong Open — without playing a match — leaving Indian challenger Kidambi Srikanth to advance to the second round.

The shock departure comes only a few days after the 24-year-old beat Taiwan’s world number two Chou Tien-chen to claim his 10th title of the year at the Fuzhou China Open, seemingly on an unstoppable path to Olympic glory next year in Tokyo.

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