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The sky's the limit for intrepid Hong Kong parachutists

Jump September 14, 1997
Web posted at: 2:54 p.m. EDT (1854 GMT)

From Correspondent May Lee

HONG KONG (CNN) -- Top-class skydivers from 75 nations will gather in Turkey this week for the World Air Games. For the first time, there will also be a team from Hong Kong, the former British colony that became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China earlier this year. The Hong Kong athletes hope that, with a bit of luck, a successful performance at the games might boost skydiving back home.

The event will mark the first time a Hong Kong team has participated in an international sporting event since the July handover.

But even though the team now officially competes under the Chinese flag, the looks and names of the team members don't exactly shout "China:" Yehoram Shenhar is from Israel, Peter Carides hails from Zimbabwe and Paul Munder and Dana Magenau are Americans.

First, the ground practice

The team admits their chances of winning in Turkey are slim. But the enthusiastic skydivers point out that the mere idea of competing against the world's best will be the ultimate thrill. "It's an opportunity that at least I know I would never have if I was living at home right now, so it's a great opportunity," Munder told CNN.

Not only is the team an outsider, it also has had to battle against the odds. The skydivers were effectively left homeless when the airfield they used for their jump training was taken over by China's People's Liberation Army after the Hong Kong handover.

vxtreme CNN's May Lee reports

The team had to go somewhere else to get in the necessary practice jumps. On weekends, they traveled to the Philippines, but for more rigorous training the skydivers traveled as far as the United States to hone their skills. In sunny California, the crew recently trained for two weeks, cramming in eight jumps a day.

Watch the team practice
video icon 787K/23 sec. QuickTime movie

World Champion skydiver John Hamilton, who coached the Hong Kong team, praised the crew members for their personalities, which he said combined determination with a good sense of humor.

The Hong Kong team was hoping that, if reasonably successful, its performance might help boost skydiving as a sport in China.

"If we can come either first or second among Asian nations, it will send a message for sport parachuting in the region, and then the calls for having drop zones in southern China, or in Hong Kong, will be that much stronger. We know we are not world class, but how are we going to get to be world class if we don't have some grounding?" commented team member Carides.

And while the promotion of sport parachuting back home will likely be more easily achieved by the Hong Kong team than winning a gold medal, who knows? Going against the odds and winning is nothing new in sports.

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