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Ge Tipped For HK's Head Coach Job

Oct 24, 2012  - Craig Lord

Former head China coach Zhao Ge is among candidates to lead Hong Kong after head coach there, Chan Yiu-hoi, retires early next year.

Zhao Ge was the coach of Liu Limin, the triple gold medallist at the Rome 1994 World Championships at a time when China was swamped in doping scandals. 

A month after Rome, where Chinese women swimmers mirrored the kind of result the sport had come to expect of the GDR's women with 13 out of 16 gold medals and a wave of world records, 11 Chinese athletes, including seven swimmers, tested positive for steroids.  

By the end of the decade, China had registered 44 positive doping tests, about a half of all positives in swimming history to that date. 

Liu was not among those who tested positive. A silver medallist in the 100m butterfly at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, she went on to attend college at the University of Nevada, Reno in the United States. She was inducted into the university's athletic hall of fame in 2010. Limin Liu won three NCAA individual championships during her career, winning the 200m butterfly at the NCAA Championships in 1999 and the 100m and 200m butterfly in 2000. 

Ge has been a key figure in Chinese swimming for two decades. he was at the helm during the transition years in which China cracked down on doping at home and saw its results in the pool wane. In the 1990s, Ge spoke of there being legitimate reasons why her women were dominant but her men nowhere. It turned out that the main reason was illegitimate: doping, and a trail of teenage victims of abuse.

Chan, meanwhile, noted in an interview with the South China Morning Post: "It will be difficult to find a suitable local candidate as many of the coaches in Hong Kong are involved in their own swimming club businesses. The head coach role means dealing with the selection of swimmers for international competitions and whatever decision a local coach makes, his selections will come under scrutiny.

"People may wonder if he is favouring swimmers from his own club - the job is not easy. I've been working at the Sports Institute since 1982 and have little involvement in private clubs. That's why I've been in this job for so long."

Chan joined the Sports Institute as a swimming coach 30 years ago and served as assistant to the likes of coaches David Haller, of Britain, and Bill Sweetenham, of Australia. Chan, 60 in March, took over from Sweetenham in 1995.

The paper cited Ge, 53, as a candidate for Chan's post, one that carries a HK$1.64 million pay package.

The 53-year-old Ge coached the mainland team from 2000 to 2005 before returning to Guangdong to train the provincial team. He coached Zhang Lin to the first ever Olympic medal for China's men in the pool, a silver over 400m freestyle,  in 2008. 

A year later, Zhang broke the 800m free world mark to win the 800m free world crown at the height of the shiny suits crisis back in the same Foro Italico pool in Rome where the "Golden Flowers" of 1994 had prospered only for it later to be exposed that their success was largely fuelled on doping, coach Zhao Ming one of the central characters at the heart of the deception. 

In 1998, Zhao Ming was banned for life, it was announced at the Perth 1998 World Championships, in the wake of Yuan Yuan getting caught with 13 vials of HGH in her kitbag at Sydney airport, the amount of banned substance enough for the while China team. Later, China said that Zhao Ming's suspension had been for eight years. He reappeared back on the deck at competitions in China before that eight-year term expired, according to overseas witnesses at meets in China.