The Hong Kong badminton team's streak of consecutive appearances at the prestigious Thomas and Uber Cups finals has ended as a result of their failure to compete in the Asia Team Championships because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The list of qualifiers for the world's top men's and women's team competitions was announced on Tuesday and Hong Kong found themselves out in the cold after three consecutive appearances in the biennial event from 2014.
The Asia team event in the Philippines early this month was a qualifier for the Thomas and Uber Cups. The four semi-finalists in both continental events made it to the finals to be played in Aarhus, Denmark on May 16-24. Organisers of the Philippines tournament demanded that Hong Kong players undergo a 14-day quarantine period before being allowed to compete, which the Hong Kong was unable to do. Attempts by the world governing body, the Badminton World Federation, to mediate in the matter failed.
There are also three slots for the highest ranking teams in the region for the finals in Denmark but Hong Kong rank fourth in both.
Head coach Tim He Yiming said the absence from the Asian event had probably cost them their place in the finals but Hong Kong still needed to improve the depth of the squad for future events.
"We could have competed for the Thomas and Uber Cup places if we were allowed to take part in the Philippines event although there were no guaranteed results," said the coach. "Even if we had failed to reach the semi-finals, we might have been able to increase our team ranking points which might also have helped us reach the finals in Denmark.
"The Thomas and Uber Cups are the highest-level team competitions and the players could have learned a lot from playing under the pressure of a team event. Nonetheless, it is now over for us and we need to strengthen the overall quality of the squad. You need seven players in the team event for three singles and two doubles but only our men's singles have such a quality. There is plenty of room for improvement."
Top player Angus Ng Ka-long will suffer from losing the chance of gaining ranking points in Denmark. Although the Tokyo Games qualifiers end in April, Ng still need points to bolster his world ranking for a better draw in the Olympics.
After the Philippines quarantine saga, the badminton team left for Germany for a training camp last week to prepare for three Olympic qualification tournaments in Europe in March.
China, who also failed to make it to the Philippines event for the same reason, went to England to prepare for their qualification campaign. However, they will be in the Thomas Cup final as the defending champions and the Uber Cup as the world number-one ranking team.
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